The Yas Marina Circuit doesn’t suit well the Toro Rosso STR11, but he still feels optimistic
Abu Dhabi, 24th November 2016.- Carlos Sainz is ready for the last Grand Prix of the 2016 season, the great finale to the 21-race long calendar. In his second year in Formula 1, Carlos has almost tripled the points he scored in his rookie year. The Drivers’ Championship is still at stake, but the Spaniard of Scuderia Toro Rosso reaches the Abu Dhabi event feeling relaxed and with one goal in mind: to finish his fantastic year on a high note.
The Yas Marina Circuit is not the best for the characteristics of the STR11. Placed in the middle of the desert, it is highly likely that the event stays dry throughout its three days. Nevertheless, Mexico wasn’t an ideal track neither and Carlos still reached Q3. The driver knows everything is possible: "In the twisty area of the track, we use second and third gear. And that’s not our greatest strength. Turn 2 and 3, which should play in our favor, are flat-out in Qualifying. This circuit is difficult and there are many straights; it doesn’t favor the strengths of the Toro Rosso. But Mexico was the same case, so I’d rather avoid being too pessimistic", he said.
His good feelings are also backed-up by his solid 2015 performance. He was P10 in the grid, ahead of his teammate in the Qualifying that decided the inner-team battle of that year. He fought for points all race long, but they were four seconds away by the time the chequered flag appeared. He was P11.
This year, Pirelli has brought the soft, the supersoft and the ultrasoft compounds. Toro Rosso has selected the same tyre allocation for his two drivers: four softs, two supersofts and seven ultrasofts, which seem the optimum choice for Qualifying.
Today, Carlos walked the track in company of his engineers to get to know better the circuit. He also found time to attend the media at the Yas Marina, with whom he shared his views ahead of the great finale.
"I think I’ve done very few mistakes this year, I can be really proud of that. I’m very happy with my 2016 and next year things can only get better. I feel I am a totally different driver to the one I was in 2015, both in terms of results and feelings. And the feeling that I’m getting now in F1 is very different to the one I had at the end of 2015. I’m very proud of that, because that’s what I wanted".
"I had frustration in 2015 because of the reliability issues we had. I wasn’t able to show my full potential and I knew that in 2016 I had to show it to the people in Formula 1. This year, there was a click in Spain and those bad pit-stops, those reliability episodes, went away. It all changed all of a sudden. My perception, and also the perception within the team, is that it all changed for the better".
The Brazil Grand Prix was exceptional for Carlos, who under torrential rain matched his best-ever result in Formula 1. He had qualified P15 in dry conditions, but moved up to P6. He almost achieved a better result, but he was on very worn tyres and couldn battle the superior cars around. It was a bittersweet P6.
"On Saturday I qualified two seconds behind the Red Bulls and I know that the Toro Rosso doesn’t win two seconds in rain conditions. I knew my tyres were on the limit during the last stint, by the time the race was finished I was almost on slicks. And my car is a Toro Rosso, not a Red Bull. I qualified two seconds behind, as I say. So I’m really proud of that driving and I have no regrets. To have someone doing a great job, as Max did, doesn’t diminish my result. I felt as happy as I could went it was finished".
Looking back at the season, Carlos conceded there was a precise moment when he experienced a serious loss of performance.
"Hockenheim was the turning point. We had been to Baku, Canada, Austria… All power-demanding tracks. But at Hockenheim, I don’t know that our rivals did, but all of a sudden we went from P8 to P14 in every race. After that moment I knew it was going to be a tough end to the season, especially with Spa and Monza around".
Carlos doesn’t blame his Ferrari engine despite its obvious lack of Top Speed. He admits that lack of power is a negative thing, but he looks at the bright side of it.
"This engine has given me the reliability I didn’t have with the previous one. I must be thankful to Ferrari because they’ve done a great effort to make my car reliable. It’s been a good year with them. For me, it’s been such a good year that I don’t look back at 2016 as a tough year because of this engine. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve fought Force Indias, Williams, McLarens… With a very limited car. And I’ve achieved good results. I’m not disappointed at all with Ferrari".
Carlos has built his personality along the years, but he sees the Canadian GP as the race when he gained that extra confidence necessary to fight for every tenth.
"A great boost for me was the race in Canada, where I did one of the few mistakes of the year with a crash in Qualifying. But for the race I changed my mentality and I did one of my best races of the season. And when you overcome such a tough moment, you get stronger and you get that confidence to know that you can recover even when you do mistakes. That was a great boost for the rest of the season".
The driver of Scuderia Toro Rosso has spent some time in the simulator preparing the 2017 car. With the changes in the technical regulations, which include new tyres, this work is even more important.
"I think I almost did 200 laps in a single day, which is a lot. At least on paper, you set the downforce levels and you are two seconds faster, three... If it is two, three or four, it will be up to Pirelli. If we improve three or four, it will depend of how the teams are able to develop through the year and the potential of the Renault engine. For now, we see a two to five second window. It's going to be quicker, that's for sure".
Carlos likes the new looks of the car, as he has seen the first pictures of the STR12: "The car is wider, bigger in general. It's more impressive. To me, it gives me a better feeling that the ones we have now, which have thin wings and look like arrows. I like that".
"In tracks like Monaco or Singapore, it's going to be more difficult to overtake as the cars will be wider. But in Malaysia or here, that doesn't matter because there's room enough for the cars. I'm not worried about that. THe car is more spectacular, faster. We'll have to see if it's going to be easy or difficult to follow the car ahead", he said.
Free Practice 1 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will commence at 13:00 local time, 10:00 Spanish time. We will follow it live via www.carlosainz.es and our Twitter account @carlosainzinfo.