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Good weekend for Red Bull Junior drivers

NEWS STORY
20/10/2014

It was a rewarding weekend for Red Bull Junior drivers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr.

Verstappen scored a dominant victory from pole in Race 1 at the final FIA Formula 3 European Championship event at Hockenheim, though in terms of his own high standards the 17-year-old probably thought the weekend was a touch disappointing. A difficult second qualifying session left him 9th and 8th and despite his obvious skill and aggression could manage no better than fifth and sixth in the final two races.

"Yeah, we had some troubles with the engine all weekend, it was a shame, we just couldn't attack the way we wanted to," explained Verstappen, who finished the season third overall. "The first session was OK and we got pole, the second qualifying was very difficult, we seemed to be down on grip but the main thing we found from the telemetry was that we had simply lost a lot of speed and that mainly was where the lap time went."

"For Race 1 from pole we were OK and that went pretty well," he explained. "The first couple of laps were pretty tough, but after that I was able to pick up the pace and establish a lead, especially after Auer locked up at the Spitzkehre hairpin. After that, I consolidated my lead. I tried to save my tyres which meant I was able to drive faster than Auer in the last part of the race."

Race 2 saw the youngster make a determined start from P9 and he soon had 8th and after a few more laps, 6th then 5th but following a safety car period he was unable to attack the leading group of four, the nearest of which was champion Esteban Ocon.

"I was unable to get within a second of Ocon. I couldn’t keep up on the main straight, even though I was going flat out. As well as things went in at Imola, here it's just not coming together."

The winner was Tom Blomqvist and that elevated the Carlin driver to second in the title chase ahead of Verstappen. It was down to the last race with Blomqvist starting from pole and Verstappen 7th.

A fabulous battle with newly crowned F3 champion Ocon, who was P6 on the grid, was certainly a highlight of the race and with the Red Bull Junior coming out ahead he was pleased to have enjoyed the final championship outing of the year. Blomqvist finished the race third though and so Verstappen was denied second in the points table.

"Yeah that was a bit of fun, the guys had worked hard and the car wasn't too bad in the end, I certainly enjoyed that," said Verstappen.

Meanwhile, a record breaking Formula Renault 3.5 season from Carlos Sainz Jr. netted him the title. The 20-year-old Spaniard, who has been linked with the second seat at Toro Rosso, had done all the hard work, setting a new standard with seven victories, before the final weekend in his home country at Jerez. He becomes the youngest driver to win the title and clinched it 24 years to the day after his father won his first World Rally Championship.

"For sure there are many great things to remember from this season," recalled Sainz. "It has been an absolutely incredible year. If you push me to pick out two highlights I would have to think back to the first weekend in Monza when we bounced back to win Race 2 after failing at the start in Race 1," he said, remembering the technical issue that saw the car stuck in second gear.

"Then we bounced back from a tough weekend at the Hungaroring to score two wins at Paul Ricard. I think that a few people were starting to think we had lost the edge but the two races in France showed again what we could do and set the record number of victories for the season so that was something to remember."

"This weekend I woke up on Saturday morning knowing that it just had to be my day. It was the 24th anniversary of my father’s first World Rally Championship and that was just a perfect match because he has been such an important part of my success, that made it very special.

"I have to thank the entire team for giving me such incredible support all season, we have had some difficulties but you certainly don't win that many races on your own, it is totally a team thing and they have been fantastic," added the Dams driver.

It was in fact the worst weekend of the year by a long way for Sainz as he failed to score a single point, having to try and fight his way forward from 15th and 14th on the grid.

"Well, we arrived believing that we would be competitive but it just never happened, it was all about tyre temperature and we never got the new tyres switched on. No matter what we did we didn't have grip and the class is so competitive that if you are a few tenths off you are in trouble and I have to say this weekend we were nowhere," he admitted.

From 15th on the grid in Race 1 Sainz battled his way through to cross the line 9th but was handed a 25-second penalty after the race following a collision and hence was classified 15th. The title was already his though as his lone rival, Roberto Merhi, was the innocent victim of a first corner clash in which he was forced into the gravel and his last hope for the title vanished.

"Fortunately we had done all the hard work before we got here and as soon as Roberto (Merhi) went out of Race 1 we had the championship," concluded the new champion.

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