Carlos Sainz says the intensity of the battle to seal sixth spot in the 2019 Formula 1 world championship made him feel like he was fighting for a title.

The McLaren driver claimed the final point on offer in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after pulling off a last-gasp overtake on Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg that resulted in him taking 10th spot on the final lap.

The result secured him ‘best of the rest’ status in sixth place in the drivers’ championship by just one point, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who finished 18th after losing his front wing during opening lap contact.

“It was the most exciting final lap I think I’ve got, it was like a world championship for me,” Sainz said.

“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, and I said OK. I saw a gap on the inside, but it was really small, a bit like with 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.”

Sainz said he approached the weekend with the mentality that he was battling to win a world championship.

“I think in modern Formula 1, to beat two guys that were in a much faster car for 10 races each, and still manage to get nearly 100 points and P6 in the championship, it’s something that before the year I couldn’t even think about,” he added.

“Coming into this weekend, I knew it was going to be tough, but I had a small chance, and we made it stick when it counted. So I’m happy about that.

“Going into this weekend I had a bit of a world championship approach, trying to put myself under pressure for that, thinking this might be one day me fighting for a world championship, and it worked well.”

Additional reporting by Julianne Cerasoli.

 

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