FEBRUARY 4, 2024

What are Sainz’s options

A few minutes after Ferrari made the very short announcement Lewis Hamilton will be joining the Scuderia from the start of 2025, ousted driver Carlos Sainz put up a short statement in his social media platorms, to confirm that, “following today’s news, Scuderia Ferrari and myself will part ways at the end of 2024.”

Carlos Sainz, Brazilian GP 2023
© Ferrari

The Spaniard continued by putting the focus on his near future, saying that, we still have a long season ahead of us and, like always, I will give my absolute best for the team and for the Tifosi all around the world.”

But as for his future destination, once his contract with Ferrari comes to an end, he just stated that, “news about my future will be announced in due course.“

Sainz has never made a secret of the fact he has a clear preference for deciding his future well in advance, like he did when he announced he was joining Ferrari at the start of 2020, when he still had one year on his contract with McLaren to run. By giving the British team plenty of notice, he actually allowed Zak Brown to hire Daniel Ricciardo also one year ahead of schedule, so this was a win-win situation for both him and the team he was still going to be racing with during that year’s championship.

As recently as in his last public appearances, Sainz vowed to, “get my future sorted out before we go to the start of the 2024 season, because that’s the way I like to operate. If I know what I’ll be doing the following season, if everything is signed and stamped, then my only focus will be on the driving and there will be no distractions, as contractual negotiations car be always a bit disruptive.”

Now, however, it looks a bit too optimistic to expect Sainz and his management team to sign a new deal for 2025 in the next two weeks, before he heads into Bahrain for the start of testing with the new Ferrari SF-24.
Even if the Spanish driver was already shopping around, as negotiations with Ferrari had been stalling in recent weeks, he only found out Hamilton was going to replace him almost at the same time as the rest of the Formula 1 world.

Obviously, a direct swap with Hamilton would be a tremendously good option for Sainz, who would slot in straight into a competitive car and would be able to measure himself against the highly rated George Russell, after acquitting himself rather well against a tremendously talented driver like Charles Leclerc.

Toto Wolff, however, won’t be in a hurry to make a decision, needing to find who is potentially available in the market, because, as Hamilton’s surprise move to Ferrari proved, the length of announced contracts don’t tell us about exit clauses, so even drivers who are theoretically locked in for 2025 and 2026 may be able to free themselves if a seat at Mercedes is available.

A second option – and one that Sainz has been investigating for at least six months – is a move to Sauber, with a long-term contract that will allow him to reap the benefits of the work he’ll do in 2025 and 2026 once Audi gets into its stride and the Swiss team becomes a front runner for the first time since 2008.

His good personal relationship with Andreas Seidl and James Key, as well as Sainz Sr.’s great status within the Audi company, would make this the obvious choice for Sainz, but to go down this route he would have to accept running in the midfield for, at least, a couple of years.

Red Bull does have a seat available for 2025 but the Sainz clan never enjoyed a great relationship with Helmut Marko – Carlos’ inclusion in the company’s young drivers’ program was done because Sainz Sr. negotiated directly with Mateschitz! – and with the Verstappen entourage it was even worse. A reunion, therefore, seems to be out of the question.

Finally, there’s Aston Martin, but this possibility will only be a realistic one if Fernando Alonso leaves the British team at the end of this year, either to retire or to make a sensational move to Mercedes. In this case, Sainz would be the ideal driver to help the team to continue to progress as he’d bring inside knowledge from four years at Ferrari and that would be very valuable for Aston Martin, that has hired plenty of engineers from Mercedes and Red Bull but no big name from the Scuderia.