The recent winner of the Formula Renault Eurocup, Sacha Fenestraz joins the likes of Alain Prost, Felipe Massa, Brendon Hartley, Valtteri Bottas, Stoffel Vandoorne, Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris in the category’s record books…In the wake of his title, which will see him join the Renault Sport Academy next year, Sacha tells us about the journey that led to this triumph.
As a child, Sacha raced karts for 10 seasons in Argentna and South America before arriving in Europe. He joined the Auto Sport Academy in 2015 to take part in the French F4 Championship. Despite his lack of experience and late start, Sacha surprised in becoming the French F4 Junior Champion in his rookie year. He moved up to Formula Renault in 2016 and won the curtain raiser to the most prestigious Grand Prix on the calendar in the streets of Monaco !
A year to learn, a year to win the title
He scored wins at Hockenheim and Estoril as well as podium results at Monza and Spa-Francorchamps in his maiden campaign.
“That first season with Tech 1 Racing created an excellent foundation”, analyses Sacha. “Lando Norris was in a league of his own, but we won at Monaco and finished up with a victory at Estoril.”
After ending 2016 with a win, Sacha returned for a second season in Formula Renault with the distinct objective of winning the Eurocup to continue his progression towards the summit.
“A lot of behind the scenes work and sacrifices were needed to reach this goal”, he confided just minutes after clinching the title. “It can seem easy, but nothing ever is. There are always small details to improve upon. One of the important decisions that was made during the winter was to change teams. Moving from a French squad, Tech 1 Racing, to Josef Kaufmann Racing, which is a German team, was for example a far from an obvious transition, but it was necessary to give me the best possible chance.”
On the podium at the season-opener at Monza, Sacha Fenestraz was immediately among the contenders for the title. Scoring big points while the R-ace GP drivers racked up the victories, the French driver claimed his maiden win of the year at Monaco, as he did in 2016 ! Combining regularity and performance, the Josef Kaufmann Racing driver took the lead in the general classification before the summer break.
“It was incredible to win two years in a row at Monaco in the support race for the F1 Grand Prix”, he says with a smile. “I certainly didn’t make it easy on myself with small errors that cost me the pole at Silverstone and Pau, but I continue to learn when I am in the car. Nevertheless, we never gave up. I started thinking about the title at the Nürburgring, before realizing that everything was possible at the Red Bull Ring. From the start of the season, the goal was to finish in the top five to ten and we did an excellent job in making it happen, especially since I was the only returning driver in my team. So it was hard to have a point of reference, but from my point of view it made the battle even better !"
2018 awaits !
With nine pole positions – equalling the single-season record ! -, seven victories, five fastest race laps and 17 podiums finishes, Sacha Fenestraz clinched the championship at Barcelona. A month earlier, the youngster, who turned 18 in July, made Formula Renault Eurocup history in becoming the first driver to take all three poles in one weekend !
“The level of competition this year was extremely high’’, believes Sacha. “It is one of the most competitive categories these days. At the beginning of the year, a lot of people thought that seven or eight drivers could battle for the title ! R-ace GP hit the ground running with Robert Shwartzman, Max Defourny and Will Palmer who were really fast. But we put in an incredible campaign in being consistent throughout the year. This allowed us to easily cope with the setbacks like my jump start in Budapest and the flip at Circuit Paul Ricard.”
“To be the champion is simply amazing ! In winning the title, I will also join the Renault Sport Academy. It is a huge honour and a fantastic opportunity for the rest of my career. I look forward to taking the Renault Sport colours to the summit next year !”
“To be the champion is simply amazing ! It is humbling to join the list of excellent drivers in the record book, not to mention Lando Norris because we have both won the Formula Renault Eurocup with the same management (ADD Motorsports, ed). In winning the title, I will also join the Renault Sport Academy. It is a huge honour and a fantastic opportunity for the rest of my career. I look forward to taking the Renault Sport colours to the summit next year !”
“This success would not have been possible without the Kaufmanns and everyone in their fantastic team as well as the people around me, and especially my parents who were attended all my race weekends. I grew up in Argentina, and this latin influence was far from negligible. It let my work at the track and with the team while allowing me to decompress away from the circuit. It is a rare balance in this line of work and maybe it helped to make the difference.”
“The next step will be either GP3 or F3”, he concludes. “Along with the Renault Sport Academy, we are looking at what category suits me best. Even though I have already raced in F3 at the Nürburgring and that we competed in the famous Macau Grand Prix – I love street circuits ! – in the Vaillante colours, everything still remains open…”