Sainz seals top five finish as Renault close gap on rivals

Carlos Sainz on his way to fifth spot for the Renault Sport F1 Team at the Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan
Carlos Sainz on his way to fifth spot for the Renault Sport F1 Team at the Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan

Cyril Abiteboul was delighted to see the Renault Sport F1 Team secure it’s best finish since returning to the sport.

In an exceptional, incident-filled race, Carlos Sainz finished fifth in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the first time the Enstone team has finished in the top five since resuming the sport in 2016.

Team-mate Nico Hülkenberg had a bittersweet race. Starting 14th on the grid, the German had a strong start and quickly moved up the field to challenge Sainz in the top five.

But, after the safety car, he went wide at turn four and hit the wall, damaging the car’s suspension and retiring from the race.

Renault retain fifth in the FIA Constructors’ Championship but have closed the gap to fourth-placed McLaren to just one point.

Abiteboul said: “We were not sure what to expect for this race but fifth for Carlos is a great result, our best since returning to the sport two years ago. We have to admit it came in exceptional circumstances but it is very positive. “It is very encouraging to look at how the grid has changed since last year; the gap to Red Bull and from the Renault engine to the rest of the field is obvious evidence of all the progress we have made and continue to make every weekend.

“We scored another handful of points and more than McLaren, so the deficit is now very close as we head towards Europe.”

Sainz said: “It’s positive for the team to go into Europe in a strong place in the championship. I need to keep working hard with my engineers to keep building the car to my liking and to keep the points coming.”

Lewis Hamilton won Sunday’s race for Mercedes AMG Petronas but Brackley team-mate Valtteri Bottas had a puncture on the final lap.

Hamilton said: “I was standing on the podium believing that Valtteri should also be there. Because I felt that he had earned it.

“The performance didn’t feel like it was on par with what I’m capable of doing. I take that away and try to turn that into positivity and come back strong at the next race because there are improvements we need to make.”

With less than ten laps remaining in Sunday’s race, the Haas F1 Team was primed to take advantage of the chaos and score its first double-points finish of the season as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were running sixth and 11th.

But the Banbury team became a part of the chaos with Magnussen finishing 13th and Grosjean crashing out to earn 15th place.