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.
Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.
“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”
Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.
The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.
Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.
Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.
Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.
Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.
Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”