Red Bull's surprise decision in August to promote Max Verstappen to a race drive with Toro Rosso in F1 next year seemed to leave Sainz without a hope of landing a promotion of his own.
Sainz then had one of his toughest weekends of the year at the Hungaroring FR3.5 round that followed the announcement, before his form recovered and he stormed to the title. He ultimately ended up with a Toro Rosso drive anyway after Daniil Kvyat's Red Bull promotion.
The 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 season will be notable for being the last with the French company's backing but also produced a worthy champion in Oliver Rowland. PETER MILLS evaluates this year's crop of drivers
Last year's field was extraordinary and hard to match, but the Formula Renault 3.5 grid will still have plenty of talent this season. Glenn Freeman runs through the field ahead of this weekend's season opener
Landing the Fortec seat that took rising star Robin Frijns to the 2012 FR3.5 title was already a good sign for Stoffel Vandoorne. Then McLaren took him under its wing. Peter Mills tells Vandoorne's story so far