Carlos Sainz cannot wait for the second half of the 2015 F1 season to get underway this weekend, determined to end a run of retirements that have seen him slip behind Toro Rosso team-mate Max Verstappen in the drivers' standings.
The rookie pairing has been one of the talking points of the season so far, with both turning in impressive performances through the first ten races. While Sainz holds the upper hand in terms of qualifying, with a 6-4 record heading to Spa, it is Verstappen who sits prettier in the championship, largely courtesy of the fourth place finish he secured last time out in Hungary.
Sainz, too, was on course for points in Budapest – as he was in Austria and Britain before that – but reliability woes have hit him harder than his Dutch colleague and he is eager to get back amongst the top ten finishers at a circuit he, like many others, rates highly.
“There's no doubt Spa's my favourite track, together with Silverstone,” the Spaniard confirmed, “I really, really like it for so many reasons, it's difficult to pick just one!
“In the Renault World Series last year in Spa, I won back-to-back races in a very solid way and it really consolidated my championship chances as well as my position within the Red Bull Junior Team. It will be emotional to go back there! The good memories will definitely give us a lot of energy and I will try and perform at the same level as I did last year.”
Despite the performance in Hungary, Sainz admits that Spa will not be as kind a venue for the STR10, with its Renault engine more limiting on the flat-out sections.
“We will need a kind of race like the one we had in Hungary to be able to be competitive in Spa,” he noted, before recalling his own misfortune, “Well, hey, maybe not exactly 100 per cent the same…
“We know we'd be strong in sector two if we could run all the downforce we have, but the problem is that the straights in sectors one and three are so long, that we will have to take all that downforce off to be competitive. Anyway, we will do our best to extract the maximum out of the car whatever the conditions are and try and do what we did in Canada, which was a solid weekend even if we didn't have a competitive package. It would be great if the rain could give us a hand, so we are hoping for some, that's for sure!”
Verstappen's fourth place in Hungary increased Toro Rosso's pressure on Lotus in their battle for a top five spot in the constructors' standings, and Sainz admits that the growing maturity of both STR rookies will be key over the remaining nine rounds.
“You can feel that everyone in the team is encouraged to keep pushing and, after Hungary, we are one step closer to our target of finishing fifth in the championship,” he concluded, “I'm a completely different driver to the one I was before Australia and we are only halfway through the season. We are all working flat-out together and this is a very good sign. Bring on the second half - let's go racing!”