Carlos Sainz says making his on-track Formula 1 debut with McLaren in Abu Dhabi was “pretty much a dream come true”.

The Spaniard, fresh from taking a sixth-place finish that helped Renault secure fourth place in the 2018 constructors’ championship in Abu Dhabi, returned to F1 action on Wednesday as he began work with his new team ahead of 2019.

Sainz ended the second and final day of the Pirelli tyre test fifth quickest in McLaren’s Renault-powered MCL33, completing 150 laps around the Yas Marina Circuit.

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“Going out of the garage today on my first day as a McLaren driver was pretty much a dream come true,” Sainz said. “When I finally completed my first run I felt extremely good, and I must say it’s been a very straightforward day.

“The team has made me feel at home from lap one and from day one yesterday when I started working with them. I did a lot of laps today and I’m grateful to the team for giving me such a reliable car to be able to initiate me in this new chapter and new style of car.

“From the first lap to the 150th lap, I enjoyed them all; the feeling was good and we’ve been able to end the season in the best way possible. As soon as I got out of the box I felt comfortable in the car.”

Sainz, who ended 2018 by beating the man he will replace at McLaren, Fernando Alonso, to 10th spot in the drivers’ standings, acknowledged he still has areas to adapt to in his new environment but feels ready for the switch after an “intense” end to the year.

“Of course, there are always going to be details to improve and new things to adapt to, like the seat and the driving style, but from the first lap I could spend time adapting and getting to know all the new controls and procedures,” he added. “It’s been great.”

“It’s been an intense few days after the race finished here in Abu Dhabi, learning a lot of names and understanding how the car works.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time back at the factory over the winter getting to know the team better and preparing as much as we can for 2019.”

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