DAMS and Carlos Sainz reassert their domination
After an almost perfect weekend the Sarthe-based team and its Spanish driver have reaffirmed their role as boss in the FR 3.5 Series. Carlos Sainz racked up his sixth and seventh victories of the season plus his seventh pole position. His lead over his nearest rival, Roberto Merhi, is now 44 points before the final showdown in Jerez on home turf. His team-mate Norman Nato was again hit with bad luck coming away from Paul Ricard with a tenth place as his only reward. In the teams’ title chase DAMS leads its immediate pursuer by 66 points. Thus the French squad is looking forward to the final round brimful of confidence.
While the sun in Provence gave the place a holiday ambience drivers and teams did not come to the Paul Ricard circuit as tourists. Certainly not DAMS, which was determined to fend off the attacks on its on-form rivals, Merhi and Pierre Gasly. After setting good times in free practice with Sainz and Nato in the top 10, the championship leader clinched pole in qualifying on Saturday morning in front of the other Red Bull protégé, Gasly. On the other hand, Nato’s confidence was at a low ebb and he finished the session in 17th place. After that the first race was almost a formality for Sainz. He made a blinder of a start and led for 22 laps finishing over four seconds in front of Gasly. Behind, Nato made one of his brilliant comebacks full of daring overtaking moves to see the flag in 10th place.
On Sunday, the same drivers filled the first two places on the front row of the grid, but this time the positions were reversed as Gasly snatched pole from Sainz by seven-tenths of a second. Lady Luck again frowned on Nato who looked on course for fifth place when qualifying was red-flagged. He had to make do with ninth spot. The race began in the early afternoon and once again Sainz demonstrated his skills. He made a cannonball start, took the lead on lap 1 and then opened up a gap over his pursuers taking the chequered flag with more than 12 seconds in hand over Gasly. It would have been a perfect race for DAMS had not Nato been involved in a collision leading to a puncture and his retirement.
The final will take place in Spain in Jerez de la Frontera with two Spaniards, Carlos Sainz and Roberto Merhi, battling for the title. The DAMS driver will arrive at this twisty, technical circuit with a comfortable lead but bearing in mind Enzo Ferrari’s famous motto: “to finish first you first have to finish!”
François Sicard, Managing Director: “A big bravo to the whole team, and a special mention for Carlos who was able to get his title challenge back on the rails after his low-key weekend in Hungary. He did a fantastic job with a stunning pole position and two brilliant victories. It was a pity for Norman who again showed all his talent in Saturday’s race: he’s had more than his fair share of bad luck. Although we’ve got a comfortable points’ cushion in both championships we must remain vigilant in the final round to finish on a high note.”
Carlos Sainz: “What an incredible weekend! A huge thank you to the team who prepared a fantastic car for me and who did a great job during pit stops. It was very important to make a big impact after Hungary, and that’s exactly what we did. It wasn’t as easy as the results make it seem, but we’re going to Jerez with a good lead. Anything can still happen so I’m going to remain 110% concentrated!”
Norman Nato: “The weekends follow one another, and unfortunately each one is different. I’m very disappointed. I didn’t really have a good feel for the car in the first qualifying session, and in the second my best lap was spoiled by a red flag. But I have to look on the positive side, my comeback in race one with some great passes. I’m really determined to finish on a high note in the final round.”
Final round: 18-19 October, Jerez (Spain)