Only Hamilton and Verstappen better than Sainz right now, says Rosberg

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2016 world champion Nico Rosberg claims Carlos Sainz is the third-best driver in Formula 1 as the 2019 season concludes.

The Spaniard has enjoyed somewhat of a breakout year after joining McLaren and currently sits joint-sixth in the Drivers' standings with Pierre Gasly ahead of the finale in Abu Dhabi.

His crowning moment though came last time out in Brazil as he inherited his first F1 podium finish in third after Lewis Hamilton was penalised post-race having come through from 20th on the grid.

“Sainz is closing off an unbelievable season,” Rosberg said in his YouTube vlog reflecting on Interlagos.

“I’ve always said he is in the top four best drivers of the year together with [Charles] Leclerc. So Leclerc, Sainz, [Max] Verstappen and [Lewis] Hamilton.

“At the moment I would maybe put Hamilton first, maybe him and Verstappen on a par after this race, maybe Hamilton slightly ahead.

“But Sainz is now third, just in front of Leclerc. He’s just done an unbelievable season, so many points in that McLaren, so great. He’s done an absolutely fantastic job.”

Third in Sao Paulo was the British team's first podium of their own since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix and confirmed they will end the year in fourth in the Constructors' standings.

A key element Sainz has pointed to for his success is the assurance of knowing his future at McLaren was guaranteed for 2020, something he's not had before in F1.

And, as a result, he expects next season to be even better in terms of his and the team's performance.

“I was looking forward to joining McLaren in that way, with a two-year deal," he revealed. "I’m a strong believer that the more time a driver spends in one team, the faster that driver becomes with that car.

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“That’s a rule that you can see pretty much in every team. You can see it with Max in Red Bull how he’s just been stronger and stronger, Lewis with Mercedes he’s been stronger and stronger every year.

“Checo [Sergio Perez] in Racing Point, a more midfield example, that guy knows that Racing Point and that team very well and that helps them execute very strong race weekends.

“I was looking forward to having this in McLaren and we are already working on the simulator on next year’s car, already developing every weekend and giving ideas to the factory to what do we need for next year’s car.

“Hopefully that will have an impact on next year, the way we drive the car and what we need is very simple. It makes sense as a driver to develop a car for a couple of years.”