Spaniard Carlos Sainz (main photo, right) is one of motorsport’s brightest young stars, impressing with fourth place at the 10th edition of the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix last year.
What did you get up to, over the break?
Nothing very rare to be honest. In December, I spent lots of time with my family and friends. That’s the best way to rest! During the season it is not easy to enjoy days at home and winter break is a good opportunity to do so. On January 2, I started my training again for the upcoming season. Hard work is the only recipe to be ready for the tests in Barcelona at the end of February.
You were impressive last year, jumping into the Renault Sport RS17 car for the last four races, seventh in Austin just one place off your teammate Nico Hülkenberg’s (main photo left) best result all year. What was it like for you?
It was definitely positive to try the Renault ahead of the 2018 season. Not only because of the car itself, which was very different from the Toro Rosso, but also to get to know the people involved on the team. I had the best possible welcome from everyone and that really helped my performance on the track.
Did it feel like sweet relief after waiting so long for your next step?
I wouldn’t say relief, but it was for sure one of the most special moments of my career so far.
You scored your best result in F1 last year at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix (above), fourth place in a crazy race. Talk us through that event, and the elation after the chequered flag.
When I saw the rain starting to fall during the national anthem I said to myself, “extra focus, today many things can happen”. Singapore is a very special event and one of the trickiest and most demanding tracks of the year. If you add the rain factor you get one of the most spectacular races on the calendar without a doubt! I kept my head down and my concentration levels at my maximum during the whole race. When I finally saw the chequered flag, I was so excited I only wanted to open the radio to congratulate my whole team. People sometimes forget the hard work so many others put into our F1 cars, and that fourth place was definitely a good way of saying thank you!
It was amazing to have a first-ever wet start in Singapore, on the milestone 10th edition of the event. Was it as treacherous as it looked?
The track is already one of the most demanding of the whole calendar, the rain made things even more interesting! The slightest mistake in Singapore puts you into the wall in dry conditions; so having to drive on a wet track really put all drivers to the test. I really enjoyed myself that Sunday. I wouldn’t mind seeing wet conditions again in Singapore!
The event itself is one of the toughest on the calendar. What are your thoughts on it generally, and how do you prepare each year pre-event? Do you do a lot of heat training?
The heat inside the car and inside our overalls reaches unbelievable levels and, normally, it is one of the longest races time-wise. If we combine those two things with the fact that you have to keep your concentration levels at your peak during the whole race (there are no long straights where you can “relax” a bit), this Grand Prix definitely needs a special preparation. I do specific heat training in the sauna before travelling to Singapore and I also use a tub filled with ice on track to cool down the body temperature as much as possible before jumping into the car. The rest is a secret!
What are your expectations for 2018? Could Renault be the dark horse, given its solid development and strong driver line-up?
I’m sure 2018 is going to be a step forward for me as a driver and for Renault as a whole team. I know and I have seen how much effort everyone in the factory is putting into the car and how big the commitment is, from the first mechanic to the top management. This gives me the highest motivation possible to get out there and give my very best every time I jump into the car. I am really looking forward to the beginning of the season.
What’s it been like working with your teammate Nico Hülkenberg?
I think Nico is a very good driver with a lot of experience in F1. I definitely look forward to working together in order to develop the car and help the team. As a driver, I have always liked racing against the very best and Nico is one of the strongest out there. We will push each other on track to get the maximum out of our cars and help Renault improve as fast as possible.
You’ve got lots of good people around you, including your dad (two-time World Rally Champion, and Dakar winner, Carlos Sainz Sr.) and four-time F1 World Champion Alain Prost, who is working for Renault as a special advisor. How have they helped you in your new role?
I am lucky to have the advice of those two great champions! My father has been giving me the best advice since I was racing in karting and thanks to that I am the driver you see today. Alain knows all the secrets of F1 to become a champion and every single piece of advice I get from him is like treasure. He is a living legend of my sport and my respect and admiration for him is enormous.
You fly a lot as an F1 driver. How do you like to do to make things more comfortable when doing long-haul flights, say to Singapore for the annual street race around Marina Bay? Do you sleep or watch movies?
I do travel a lot indeed! In 2018 we are racing in 21 different countries, starting in March and finishing in November. If you also add trips to the factory, to sponsor events, etc. the number of flights per year is very high. Comfort wise, I always try to wear loose clothes and carry my headphones everywhere. Sleep wise depends a lot on the jet lag plan we are following. I like to read a book or watch a good thriller movie when I need to stay awake.
The 2018 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX will be held from September 14-16.
– TEXT BY STEWART BELL
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.