Carlos Sainz says it’s hard to imagine how his first Grand Prix weekend with the Renault F1 Team could have gone much better.
Sainz became the first driver since Giancarlo Fisichella in 2005 to score points in his debut race for the Enstone team with seventh place in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
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 possibleCarlos Sainz
Despite having never driven the RS17 before Friday practice, the former Toro Rosso driver looked comfortable from the off at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.
Sainz qualified a solid ninth before a feisty drive to seventh in the race where his charge was only blunted when he began to run low on fuel.
Sainz, who replaced Jolyon Palmer at Renault, 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 qualifying 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.”
With the six points Sainz earned in Austin, Renault were able to vault the Haas F1 Team for seventh in the constructors’ standings and are now just five points behind sixth-placed Toro Rosso with three races to go. But team-mate Nico Hülkenberg failed to finish on Sunday.
As for the Haas F1 Team, drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished 14th and 16th, respectively.
The duo put forth a tenacious drive in the Banbury-based team’s home race, with the outcome not indicative of the effort.
Grosjean started 12th and ran as high as ninth from laps 15 to 16 while Magnussen started 17th and also worked his way up the leader board, earning his best running position of 11th from laps 30 to 31.
Grosjean said: “I was trying to hang in there but the last few laps I felt it was pretty dangerous.
“We’re all going to work hard, we know Mexico was tough on us last year but, hopefully, we find some solutions. We’re going to work hard, but right now it’s disappointing not to put on a better show at home.”
Magnussen said: “It was not the best day for us but the car was actually better from qualifying. We just had to pit at the first lap, so our tyres, we tried to do the whole race on softs but not quite possible.”
Disappointed team boss Guenther Steiner added: “Obviously, a tough weekend for the whole team, we were just not fast enough.
“We had every issue you can have. I think it went over the whole weekend but we had hoped to get something back and we didn’t.
“We regroup, try to get better and get back to where we were a few races ago.”