Carlos Sainz Jr. said that his first official outing as a McLaren F1 Team driver was “a dream come true”, as he prepares to fill the space left my compatriot and idol Fernando Alonso.
Sainz Jr. completed 150 laps on the final day of post-season tyre testing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, setting the fifth fastest time of the day – two seconds adrift of pacesetter Charles Leclerc. The Spaniard set his best lap on ‘compound 5’ tyres, otherwise known as the 2019 hyper-softs.
Reflecting on a momentous day for him, Sainz Jr. said that he felt content with a “straightforward day”, free from any technical issues. The 24-year-old also praised the McLaren team for their generous welcome.
“Going out of the garage today on my first day as a McLaren driver was pretty much a dream come true,” beamed Sainz Jr. “When I finally completed my first run I felt extremely good, and I must say it’s been a very straightforward day.
“The team has made me feel at home from lap one and from day one yesterday when I started working with them. I did a lot of laps today and I’m grateful to the team for giving me such a reliable car to be able to initiate me in this new chapter and new style of car.”
The former Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver revealed that he felt “comfortable” in the car from the start, but is wary of the need for adaptation to new machinery. After another difficult season for McLaren, where they finished sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, Sainz Jr. took heart from a quiet and efficient day of testing.
“From the first lap to the 150th lap, I enjoyed them all,” he added. “The feeling was good and we’ve been able to end the season in the best way possible.
“As soon as I got out of the box I felt comfortable in the car. Of course, there are always going to be details to improve and new things to adapt to, like the seat and the driving style, but from the first lap I could spend time adapting and getting to know all the new controls and procedures.
“It’s been an intense few days after the race finished here in Abu Dhabi, learning a lot of names and understanding how the car works,” he continued.
“I’m looking forward to spending more time back at the factory over the winter getting to know the team better and preparing as much as we can for 2019.”
McLaren’s sporting director Gil de Ferran echoed Sainz Jr’s sentiments, calling the final day of test “an exciting day” for the team, noting that the key element of the day involved building a working relationship between driver and team.
“Today was an exciting day for the whole team, to have a completely new driver in the car,” de Ferran said.
“The main goal today was familiarisation with each other, which we achieved in spades. We completed a great number of miles and performed all the tests required by Pirelli.”
Drafted into McLaren in the middle of the season for Eric Boullier, former Indianapolis 500 winner de Ferran personally welcomed Sainz Jr. to the team.
“In closing, on this, the last day that our Formula 1 car will turn a wheel this year, I’d like to officially welcome Carlos to the team, and once again thank everyone that has contributed to the enormous effort put in during the 2018 season.”