Having seen his championship lead slashed considerably by Roberto Merhi over the past three Formula Renault 3.5 Series events, Carlos Sainz Jr remains confident as he heads into the penultimate event of the season at the French circuit of Paul Ricard.
The DAMS driver still sits sixteen points ahead of Merhi, but has seen the Zeta Corse driver claim three victories and close in by seventy points on Sainz Jr in the races at the Moscow Raceway, the Nurburgring and the Hungaroring. He feels ready for Paul Ricard this weekend, and admits to liking the technical challenge of the track.
“We are really looking forward to the weekend and we are confident of doing a good job,” said Sainz Jr. “Our Dams team and a few others came here for testing so unlike the recent races we have some good reference going into the weekend and that always helps.
“It is a very interesting track with fast and medium speed corners that is exciting and challenging to drive and with long straights so it makes choosing the right downforce etc. to run very important, I like the technical challenges of a track like this.”
At times in 2014, Red Bull Junior driver Sainz Jr has been untouchable, such as in Monza and Spa-Francorchamps, but the speed advantage the Spaniard believes was unrealistic, and with an extremely talented field of drivers, it is hard to be a front-runner in every event.
“The racing has been getting closer and closer and it is just as I expected,” said Sainz Jr. “I said after Monza and Spa that the level of advantage that we seemed to have there was not realistic. It is an extremely competitive series with very talented drivers and teams and it was bound to get a lot closer, it is hard to be in front consistently.
“I think that coming to these last four races we are now at tracks that we know, are confident about and should suit us better than some of the recent circuits. It is going to be very hard though, we know that and we have to have everything right. You would like to think you can have five-tenths of an advantage but it isn’t going to be like that, if you have one-tenth over the others you are doing well.”
Whereas on paper the battle for the championship looks like a straight fight between Sainz Jr and Merhi, Sainz Jr believes you cannot rule out Pierre Gasly or Oliver Rowland, who are both still within range of top spot.
“Of course Roberto is coming strong, but I think Rowland can have a very nice end of the season, as well as Pierre,” said Sainz Jr to Autosport. “When you are a rookie the second half of the season is easier, so we need to keep an eye on them.
“This championship has a lot of talent, so there is a lot to fight for. We need one or two more wins before the season ends.”