Carlos Sainz ticked every box imaginable during his debut weekend with the Renault team at the United States Grand Prix.
The Spaniard was drafted in, to replace Jolyon Palmer in the French team, with four races remaining in the championship as part of a deal between Red Bull and Renault.
Despite never having driven the RS17 prior to FP1 on Friday, Sainz was quicker than teammate Nico Hulkenberg in every session including qualifying where the Spaniard was ninth fastest.
In the race he was in several battles, including a feisty one with the Force India duo, ending his first grand prix in the yellow car in seventh.
Reflecting after the race in Austin, Sainz said, “I think everything exceeded a bit my expectations. I knew I could be quick – I had confidence in myself knowing that I could adapt to a team quickly, otherwise this change wouldn’t have been possible.”
“Still, to do such a good quali and such a good race, such a complete race in general, right from FP1 to the last lap of the race, as my engineer said it was faultless. I’m really happy and I have to thank the team for making me feel right at home from the beginning.”
“It’s very difficult to have gone any better than it did. In the race we went from less to more – we were picking up pace, first attacking Checo [Perez] and then Esteban [Ocon]. It’s a shame I ran out of fuel in the last three or four laps and couldn’t attack Esteban, but [overall] really fun.”
After assessing his first weekend with his new team, Sainz is confident that things will only get better, “I think we still have a big margin of improvement ahead of us, but it will come with more races and more experience. We’ve done our first weekend very close to perfect, so we need to keep going like that.”
Sainz learned about his exit from Toro Rosso at the Japanese Grand Prix, and the week after that he spent his time familiarising himself with the organisation he will be racing with until at least the end of 2018.
The 23 year old from Madrid explained, “I’m driving for a manufacturer team and I felt that when I went to Enstone last week. I am very happy with what I’ve seen so far and what I felt so far. It’s the step in my career that I was looking to do. They’ve given me this chance, trusted in me and I feel like I’ve made a step up in my career.”
“I feel a lot of support, to be honest. From the Renault management, from Alain [Prost], from Cyril [Abiteboul], they’ve all been very optimistic, very proactive, very happy with this change and very motivated. This helps.”
“When you join a team and you see they want you – they really want you here and really want you to do well – it’s a great feeling. This support is exactly what I was looking for and I’m extremely happy.”
“The conclusion is that we can all be very happy, very pleased with what we have achieved in such a short period of time. I think everything has gone smoothly the whole weekend really. My side of the garage has been working hard to help me adapt to this new challenge and together with a quick adaptation from my side I think we can be very happy.”
Renault chief Abiteboul was chuffed with his new driver, “I think he did a remarkable job. It’s not easy to change teams in the middle of a season.
“There have been previous circumstances when things have not happened that way in other teams in the history of F1. It’s a move that we were all looking forward to. There was lots of preparation put into that. it’s not easy with a busy weekend between Suzuka and this race.
“A lot has happened to get everything ready and that is to the credit of him first but also to the team that has done such a good job all together,” added Abitboul after the race at Circuit of the Americas.
Sainz scored six valuable points for Renault in Austin and thus skipped past Haas for seventh place in the constructors’ standings and are now, with three races to go, only five points adrift of sixth placed Toro Rosso, ironically his former team.