Respectable Italian media are reporting a major Formula 1 driver shake-up suggesting that Carlos Sainz will leave Ferrari at the end of 2024, with Williams driver Alex Albon replacing him.
F1 musical chairs aka the Silly Season have been bubbling with driver changes even expected during the course of this season. Well-known is Daniel Ricciardo hovering in the Red Bull wings, keeping pressure on AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. The Dutch rookie could be dropped sooner rather than later.
But the real Silly Season kick-starter is a report in today’s Corriere dello Sport writing of the Albon-to-Ferrari-and-Sainz-out. Both Sainz and current teammate Charles Leclerc have contracts with Maranello until the end of next year.
Before this, speculation was rife that increasingly frustrated with Ferrari, Leclerc was looking around with rumours linking him to just about every top team, Mercedes and Audi among the more believable.
Ditto Sainz, always frustrated with the Reds and their fumbling, who may well already have inked a deal with the team Andreas Seidl will lead from the current Sauber HQ in Switzerland. The German team boss and the Spaniard worked together at McLaren. The pair joined the team in 2019.
If Seidl and Sainz clicked at the time, be sure a deal is done or structured to be signed. They will reunite.
Which leaves a seat to be filled alongside Leclerc. Step up Alex Albon. The Williams driver the sensation of this season. His once tattered reputation has been rebuilt away from the Red Bull warzone, at the great team built by Sir Frank with a decent racing man, James Vowles, again running the show after years of dubious leadership.
Ferrari under Fred Vasseur the Reds are rebuilding everywhere
The Scuderia’s driver issue was always going to be a problem. Both Charlies believe they are World Champion material, Ferrari backs Leclerc, which does not sit well with Sainz who is often better than his teammate who might be getting preferential treatment too.
Because that’s how it works in F1, and more so at Ferrari and their favoured drivers. So Sainz to Audi is a good bet. And this is how the Corriere dello Sport tripped the Silly Season switch: “The irreconcilability between Carlitos’ sacrosanct ambition to become world champion and Ferrari’s determined intention to become Leclerc-centric.
“And now unbounded rumours are swirling, suggesting Vasseur has hooked Alex Albon to have in Red from 2025, to score points and watch Charles’s back. It is a plausible hypothesis considering the various circumstances, that the contracts of Sainz with Maranello and of Albon with Williams expire at the end of 2024,” concluded the editorial.
Coincidentally, Albon is flying around Silverstone. At the sharp end in both practice sessions in a Williams well suited to the high-speeds of the British Grand Prix venue. And records show that this year, Alex has put that FW45 in places it had no right being.
In a nutshell, he has well and truly filled the big shoes of the man he replaced at Williams, George Russell. He too was “spotted” doing good things during his time at the Grove-based outfit, and go the big team call-up from Mercedes.
Alex started racing at the age of 8, racing karts in the Honda Cadet class from 2005. His karting success snowballed from the off, Albon had the remarkable record of not finishing outside the Top 3 in any championship he competed in from 2006 – 2011.
He became a multiple champion at British and European levels of karting – where he raced and won against the likes of Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen. At the time Alex was held in awe by his rivals and referred to as the King of Karting.
From the 2012 season onwards, he graduated to single-seaters. Alex’s highlights in Formula car racing have come in the 2014 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, where he was 3rd overall and the 2016 GP3 Series, which saw him finish 2nd overall – just behind Champion Charles Leclerc.
2018 saw Alex race in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, where he took 4 Wins, 7 Podiums and 3 Pole Positions – fighting for the Driver’s Championship in the Season Finale, where he finished the season 3rd overall.
Alex made his Formula 1 debut at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix for Scuderia Toro Rosso, representing Thailand.
Following an increasingly impressive Rookie season, Alex was promoted to Aston Martin Red Bull Racing for the Belgian Grand Prix and onwards – before being retained for the 2020 season after a strong end to his debut season in F1.
2020 saw Alex take his maiden podium in Mugello, before doubling his podium tally at the Bahrain Grand Prix later that season.
Alex joined Williams Racing for the 2022 season, where he partners Nicholas Latifi as the sport heads into a new era of Formula 1.