Carlos Sainz Jr. dominates at Spa with two wins in Formula Renault 3.5

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Red Bull youngster Carlos Sainz Jr. has taken a huge step towards securing a Formula 1 seat in the near future after dominating the latest round of the Formula Renault 3.5 season at Spa this weekend.

The Spaniard won both races from pole position at the historic circuit to surge into a 43-point lead at the top of the drivers’ standings, and is well-placed to follow in Kevin Magnussen’s footsteps and clinch the title this season.

Formula Renault 3.5 is widely regarded as being one of F1’s premier feeder series alongside GP2, and has produced a number of the current drivers racing in the sport. Daniel Ricciardo, Pastor Maldonado, Jules Bianchi and Jean-Eric Vergne have all raced in the Renault-backed series, and Sebastian Vettel also took part in half of the 2007 season before moving up to F1 earlier than planned.

Sainz Jr., the son of rally legend Carlos, is one of three premier juniors with Red Bull at the moment, and is poised to take Vergne’s place at Toro Rosso at the end of the season.

Fellow Red Bull-backed driver Pierre Gasly finished directly behind Sainz on Saturday, and came home in fourth on Sunday. He remains in second place in the championship, and is definitely a star to look out for in the future.

The race on Saturday was particularly frenetic, but Sainz managed to keep his head whilst all about him lost theirs and win ahead of Gasly.

Sauber junior driver Sergey Sirotkin failed to finish either race at Spa, extending his streak of DNFs to four.

You can watch highlights of the action at Spa on Renault Sport’s official YouTube channel.

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.