It may not have been the season finale he was hoping for but Carlos Sainz is not letting his crew’s disastrous mistake that ended his Abu Dhabi Grand Prix prematurely sour his feelings about his 2017.
The front left tyre of Sainz’s Renault was mounted incorrectly during a pit stop early in the race and it almost came off as he drove off into the tunnel and nearly hit the wall.
But the Spaniard, who finished ninth in the drivers’ championship after a year that saw him get dropped from Toro Rosso and picked up by Renault in October with just four races left in the season, feels positively about 2017 and is optimistic about what’s to come.
“It was coming a really nice race, very good pace, so I cannot be disappointed by the outcome,” the 23-year-old told Sport360 on Sunday night at Yas Marina Circuit.
“I think it’s just a human mistake that things happen in Formula One, we all do mistakes once a year. No hard feelings.
“We just need to be very pleased about how we prepared this last race, the pace that both cars had in the race and during the whole weekend and be happy about that.”
Both Renaults were indeed in good shape over the weekend and Sainz’s team-mate Nico Hulkenberg secured an impressive sixth place on Sunday, despite receiving a five seconds penalty for running off the circuit to pass his ex-team-mate Sergio Perez of Force India.
Sainz scored a P7 in his first race with Renault at the US Grand Prix last month and his best finish of the year came with Toro Rosso when he finished fourth in Singapore.
The Madrileño feels he has got a decent head-start on 2018 thanks to the four races he got with Renault in the last few weeks.
“It’s given me a big advantage to have these four races, to know the car, to know the systems, to know the team, my engineers. It’s been fundamental for next year,” he had said on Saturday.
“That means that in testing we can start focusing already on car performance and not so much on me adapting to a car or to a team. So that’s going to be encouraging to know that and it’s going to give us a big advantage for next year.”
He’s also proud of his top-10 finish in the championship and is raring to go further in 2018.
“I think that first of all to finish P9 in the drivers’ championship shows that this year has been a very positive year for me,” he added. “It also wasn’t easy because I had to switch teams three quarters into the season and I think we adapted very well.”
Sainz admits though that it will still take him some time to get completely comfortable with the car.
“With so many changes we do through laps, qualifying, with so many different characteristics that each car has, with torques, etc… I haven’t found my baseline yet,” he confessed.
“Brazil was a good step forward but I haven’t found exactly what I need to do to drive this car. I’m still thinking doing a qualifying lap what I need to do to go faster through this corner, through the other… it doesn’t come naturally yet. So until we do a bit of testing and a good consecutive tyre sets this will come so I’m not worried.”
Nico Hulkenberg may not have won Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but his pragmatic drive for sixth secured increased championship prize money and a controversial post-race row.
The German driver ran off circuit and gained an advantage when he passed Sergio Perez’s Force India early in the race — a move that resulted in a stewards’ investigation.
Most observers expected him to be forced to hand his place back to Perez, but instead he was handed a five seconds penalty and went on to finish sixth.
It was a result that was good enough for his Renault team to leap ahead of Toro Rosso and take sixth place in the constructors’ championship.
That success, estimated by paddock experts to be worth at least an additional €7.2 million, left Force India boss Otmar Szafneuer enraged.
He said: “It makes a mockery of the sport to have it so inconsistent. Hulkenberg cuts a corner, the FIA don’t do anything about it and guess what? They gain a place in the constructors’ championship, which means more money and more competitiveness next year.”
Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul said: “There was a penalty decided and we served the penalty…”
Hulkenberg said he felt the penalty was fair.
“It’s always different car, different perspective. I saw he was locking up and running wide. I had nowhere to go… I think the five seconds was fair.”
The two drivers were team-mates at Force India last year.
Renault had started the race with a four points deficit to Toro Rosso, but finished it in front by four.
— Renault Sport F1 (@RenaultSportF1) November 26, 2017
Lewis Hamilton has called for changes to be made to the design of the track at Yas Marina Circuit in order to make racing on it more entertaining.
The four-time world champion believes Abu Dhabi is “the best place” to host the Formula One season finale but the lack of overtaking opportunities of its track has often resulted in boring races, including Sunday night’s routine affair that saw Valtteri Bottas secure victory from pole position.
The top eight in the race finished in the same order as their qualifying standings (positions 4 to 8 each moved up one spot due to Daniel Ricciardo’s DNF).
“If there’s any way we can improve this track to enable us to have these battles… you’ve got these long straights where you can’t even get close enough to utilise them. If there’s some way where we can enable us to be able to remain closer in that third sector, I think this will go up in the rankings of a great circuit,” Hamilton said on Sunday night after claiming second place in the race.
“I don’t know if they can do it but I know there’s money to do it but I just hope… I have hope for Abu Dhabi to get better.”
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen did everything he could to try and pip Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on Sunday but ended up in P5 behind the Finn, just like they started.
The 20-year-old Dutchman did not hold back in sarcasm when describing how the race unfolded.
“For me that was a pretty boring race, if I had a pillow in the car I could have fallen asleep. I tried to follow Kimi at the start but it’s so hard at this track and I couldn’t find an opportunity to pass. As soon as you get within 1.5 seconds it is really tough to get close and make a pass,” said Verstappen.
Yas Marina Circuit was designed by German engineer Hermann Tilke, who also designed the tracks in Sepang, Bahrain, Shanghai, Istanbul, Valencia, and Singapore and was involved in the overhaul of some of the European circuits.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits last night’s race was not an interesting one, describing it as a “procession of cars” but didn’t just blame the circuit.
“I think the race itself wasn’t very spectacular, the championship was already decided but also with the new regulations of cars, these cars are extremely difficult to overtake. You could see that between Raikkonen and Verstappen and the same between Valtteri and Lewis,” said Wolff.
“A track like Abu Dhabi is probably one where you can see where the effect is the worst and that’s why we saw a procession of cars rather than an exciting race.”
While some may prefer having the season-closing race to be at a track that offers more opportunities for having an exciting race, Hamilton feels Abu Dhabi is the right place to host the finale.
The Brit added that Yas Marina Circuit was not the only venue that had this problem.
“I think ultimately you can look at a lot of the tracks, my engineers can give me a number for overtaking delta for every single circuit and it obviously varies. Which is strange that the TV don’t even advertise that. They don’t tell people while they’re watching TV that the reason someone cannot overtake is because of the downforce, the drag issue, and then from track to track varies. That’s something perhaps they should include,” said Hamilton.
“But no, I think this is one of the best, if not the best, place to have the last race, in terms of the atmosphere, in terms of the hospitality, it’s second to none, it’s such a beautiful place, so it’s a great week.
“I think the track, as a lot of the tracks do, have some small flaws in the sense that it’s hard to follow, or can’t follow, which I think can make better racing. How they go about doing that, I can’t tell you, I’m not a track designer, and I don’t know if it can be changed but…”