Carlos Sainz Jr. says Saturday’s announcement that he would be joining Renault’s Formula 1 team from the next race in the United States came as “a big surprise”, having only found out 30 minutes before the news was made public.

Renault confirmed last month it had signed Sainz for the 2018 season, and worked behind-the-scenes to try and draft the Toro Rosso driver in early by paying off Jolyon Palmer to leave before the end of the season.

Palmer dug in his heels and said his contract would remain solid, only to reveal on Saturday at Suzuka that the Japanese Grand Prix would be his final race for the team.

Renault confirmed soon after Palmer’s announcement it had secured Sainz for the final four races of the season, starting from the United States Grand Prix.

“I actually knew about half an hour before the announcement so it was quite unexpected from my side,” Sainz said. “A big surprise like for you guys! My manager let me know that Cyril [Abiteboul] had told him.”

When asked what feelings he had upon finding out, Sainz said: “Not many, because I was so focused on today that I didn’t realise it.

“When I went to bed I was happy because I knew it was a good chance for me to adapt to the car a bit earlier than we expected, to get to know my engineers, the team, the mechanics a bit earlier.

“I liked it, although I was not very emotional or happy because I was so focused on the weekend that it was difficult to take the mind out of that.”

Sainz crashed out on the opening lap of his final race for Toro Rosso at Suzuka, having pushed hard at the start to try and go out on a high.

“Today was very simple, we started on the soft tyre and there was less grip than I was expecting,” Sainz explained.

“We wanted to gain places at the start because in a one-stop race there’s not much going on. I tried to risk it. Normally it works but today it didn’t and I went around the outside of Turn 6, found a lot more dust, a lot more dirt than I was expecting and I had a snap and lost the car.

“So nothing to regret, obviously no regrets. I was pushing hard for the team at this last race. I needed to risk at the start and it didn’t work.”