Carlos Sainz hailed his dramatic final lap overtake on Nico Hulkenberg was ‘like a world championship’ after it secured sixth place in the drivers’ standings.
The McLaren driver needed to outscore Pierre Gasly in order to finish sixth in the standings after an impressive season since his move from Renault. With Gasly out of the points it was his former team-mate who stood in his way with Hulkenberg in 10th place at the start of the final lap, and Sainz duly pulled a strong move down the inside of Turn 11 to secure the single point he needed with 10 corners remaining.
“It wasn’t on TV? Aargh. No way!” Sainz said, with the move occurring as race-winner Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line. “It was the most exciting final lap I think I’ve got, it was like a world championship for me.
“I got close enough to Nico to throw a move into Turn 9, and decided to back out of it and try it in 11, but I didn’t get the run out of 10 that I wanted, so it meant I arrived too late and a bit far behind.
“I saw a gap on the inside, but it was really small, a bit like with (Sergio) Perez. so I said ‘OK, if it worked with Perez, I need to try to make it work with Nico.’ I threw the move and made it stick. It’s crazy, at the end of the championship, we were fighting on the last lap, in the last overtaking opportunity of the track. I made it stick. It hasn’t been an easy race, but I’m very happy with it.”
And Sainz knew the magnitude of the move as he had kept up to date with how the battle with Gasly and Alex Albon for sixth overall was panning out throughout the race at Yas Marina.
“I made sure I was aware of it.I knew. Well I could follow on the TV also,” Sainz said. “I knew Gasly was pretty much out of the race. When I was behind Nico in the first stint or second stint, I knew Perez and (Daniil) Kvyat were on the fastest strategy, which by the way is a pain, this medium advantage, having to start the race on the softs.
“They give them a massive advantage on the strategy. There was no DRS in the beginning, we couldn’t go through traffic. It just compromised our whole race. The whole race behind Lando (Norris), behind Renault with the dirty air, it was very difficult to manage the tires, and at the end I was going to get passed by Kvyat and by Perez, and I said our only chance is by getting Nico at the end and pitting for a medium.
“We did it. I think I did one of the fastest laps as soon as I pitted so I could show my pace in clean air, finally. Just got him on the last lap and made it stick.”