DAMS, WSR, Manche 9, Jerez
They did it! In front of his home crowd Carlos Sainz became the first Spanish – and first Red Bull – driver to win the Formula Renault 3.5 championship helping DAMS retain the two titles it won in 2013 in the series. The Le Mans-based team also owes a debt to Norman Nato whose points scored in Jerez were capital for victory in the teams’ championship. The French squad is the only team to have won the GP2 Series and F.R 3.5 Series titles, and this year it has achieved a unique feat by winning them both in the same season!
In glorious sunshine in Andalusia the battle between Sainz and Roberto Mehri never took place as neither scored any points this weekend. Despite setting good times in free practice the DAMS drivers had poor qualifying sessions. Ill-adapted setups and above all tyre pressure problems would seem to explain the fact that they qualified well down the field (Carlos P 15 and P14 and NatoP18 and P15). Fortunately, a couple of fighting drives from the Frenchman helped him make good comebacks in both heats, and kept DAMS three points in front of Fortec in the teams’ championship as the English squad was in scintillating form on the Jerez circuit.
On Saturday Mehri’s race ended in the first corner after a collision handing the drivers’ title to Sainz. The next task was to clinch the teams’ award. After a couple of hectic laps Carlos and Norman were in eighth and ninth places. Forty minutes later that’s where they finished! It was a result in keeping with the characteristics of the Spanish circuit on which overtaking is well nigh impossible. Sainz was then handed a 25-second penalty for contact with Tunjo dropping him back to 15th. It was the same story on Sunday as both drivers started way back, but they quickly gained places thanks to a good tyre changing strategy. In the second part of the race they were in 10th and 11th positions. On the pit wall the DAMS team held its collective breath as the Fortec drivers clinched first and fifth places. But they were able to give full vent to their joy at the chequered flag.
With nine victories (7 for Carlos and 2 for Norman) and 8 pole positions (7 for the Spaniard and 1 for the Frenchman) in 17 races DAMS fully deserved these titles after a brilliant 2014 season against very tough opposition. The 2015 season begins in just a few days on 21-22 October with the first evaluation tests at Jerez to prepare for another glorious future.
Jean-Paul Driot, DAMS’s Owner : “I’m really very, very proud of the team. A week after the drivers’ title in GP2, they’ve clinched both titles in Formula Renault 3.5 showing yet again the fantastic quality of their work. This year all the right ingredients were in place not only from a technical point of view, but also in terms of management to get the drivers to deliver their best performances. A big bravo to Carlos who proved just how good he is and that he deserves his chance in Formula 1. Congratulations also to Norman who wasn’t always very lucky, but whose contribution was vital for the team. We still have one more objective to achieve, the teams’ title in GP2 and we’ll do our utmost to clinch it!”
Carlos Sainz: “What an extraordinary year! My heartfelt thanks to DAMS who gave me a sensational car all year, which helped me to achieve my objective – the title. When I joined the team I thought I was a good worker but I soon understood that I was way off the mark! They’ve helped me to improve and to understand that speed isn’t enough; you also have to do a lot of work and be 100% per cent involved. It’s thanks to that and thanks to them that I’ve succeeded, and I’m delighted that the team’s been rewarded too.”
Norman Nato: “This last weekend didn’t really turn out as we were hoping; we ran into some difficulties. But the essential thing is that it went off well for the team and I’d like to congratulate Carlos for his well-deserved title. From my point of view I’ll remember above all my two victories that gave me confidences in my skills, in particular the one in Monaco. I’d like to say a big thanks to DAMS for its fantastic support over the past two years.”
Final overall classification drivers
1. C. Sainz, 227 points ; 2. P. Gasly, 192 ; 3. R. Merhi, 183… 7. N. Nato, 89
Final overall classification teams
1. DAMS, 316 points; 2. Fortec, 313 ; 3. Arden, 222