Badger is taking a conversational look at the rookies who will make their F1 debuts in Melbourne. First up is Toro Rosso newboy Carlos Sainz Jr.

Hang on, the ex-rally driver? He must be in his fifties! What’s he doing rocking up in F1?

While you’re to be commended for remembering the great Carlos Sainz, you’ve got the wrong one. This is not the man who once put his crash-helmet through the window of a Toyota Corolla, but his 20-year-old son, Carlos Jr. He’ll make his F1 debut in Melbourne with Toro Rosso.

It seems sensible not to get into rallying now they’ve made it compulsory that world champions need to be French and named Sebastien.

You’ve been reading too many GMM articles. Anyway, ‘Junior’ followed the traditional path towards F1, racing in karts before graduating to cars with Red Bull backing in 2010.

So, is he any good?

It’s tough to say. Before 2014 he hadn’t won a major junior championship and took a particular hammering in 2013, when his team-mate Daniil Kvyat won the GP3 crown and he could only manage 10th. But the stars aligned last year and he took a convincing Formula Renault 3.5 title, albeit with the best team and against a somewhat weakened field.

You don’t sound convinced…

To my mind there are a few black marks in his copybook. Given his backing, he should really have won a major title before 2014, but it would be fair to say that he was beaten by more naturally gifted drivers (Kvyat, Robin Frijns). It seems Red Bull felt the same, as they initially passed him over for this seat, only for Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari switch to force their hand. But if Seb had stayed at the senior team, Carlos would probably be a reserve at best this term.

C’mon, surely he’s redeemed himself by winning that Renault title last year?

He certainly showed that he’s put in the hard hours and matured as a driver. And let’s be clear, he fully deserves a crack at F1. But whether that’s enough to make him a megastar is another matter.

What’s he got to contend with on the other side of the garage? Tommi Makkinen Jr.?

Very funny. No, it’s the man Red Bull initially passed him over for: 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who will be in only his second season of single-seater competition this year. That gives the Dutchman a lot of grace and Sainz, who enters his sixth year of cars in 2015, will be expected to beat him.

Pappa Sainz and Daddy Verstappen in the same garage?! That’s a bust-up waiting to happen!

Yeah, you’d spend good money on pay-per-view TV to watch Jos and Carlos Sr. slugging it out to determine whose son gets the new-spec front-wing.

Perhaps he’s not won everything he’s raced, but Red Bull clearly like him and they’re getting increasingly good at spotting talent. So is he the next Vettel or another Scott Speed?

I’ll stick my neck out and say he is not world champion material – another solid 7/10. But that’s not to say he can’t make a name for himself at Toro Rosso, hang around for a few years, then go race in Formula E. After all, it worked for Alguersuari, Buemi and Vergne.

Toro Rosso: the unofficial Formula E feeder team.

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