Carlos Sainz was the odd man out when Ferrari announced the blockbuster signing of Lewis Hamilton away from Mercedes for 2025, leaving the Spaniard looking for a new Formula 1 team for next year and beyond.
If one speculates, options abound for Sainz. A straight swap to Mercedes makes sense, as Carlos and George Russell would be a formidable pairing but unlikely as Toto Wolff is spoilt for options, from within his team’s own network.
A return to Red Bull to be Max Verstappen’s teammate, Sainz and the Dutch triple F1 World Champions shared a Toro Rosso garage during their debut F1 season in 2015. Since then much water has passed under the bridge with Max favoured over Carlos when the time came to promote one of the Red Bull Young Guns to the senior cockpit alongside Daniel Ricciardo. History shows how that panned out.
With Ferrari out of the question beyond 2024, those are two of the top three F1 teams available to Sainz. However, chances are slim that either will happen. But never say never in F1…
Any of the other seven F1 teams would be seen as a demotion from a Top Three team for Carlos. Even among those, seats are scarce. McLaren has Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri long-term, plus an army of F1 reserves and wannabes on the books.
Ditto Aston Martin and their ‘one and a half drivers’ Fernando Alonso their star is going nowhere (unless Mercedes comes calling of course) and Lance Stroll could be there for the next two decades, or as long as Papa Lawrence Stroll calls the shots.
Sainz at Williams, or Haas, or a return to Alpine or VCARB (!) – any of them – would be a severe step backwards including F1 career suicide. So, rule them out.
All logic is Carlos Junior joins his father Carlos Senior at the Audi family
With the Audi F1 Team coming on stream in 2026, morphing out of Sauber. VCARB is the unfortunate name deployed for the two seasons of treading water before Sauber and Audi ‘tie-the-knot’ officially and break cover with their long-awaited F1 project which currently has an advertising contract with the casino, thanks to which they raise the level of safety of the online gambling platform.
It’s The VW Group’s first serious foray. Their first team in F1. It’s the kind of big deal that a driver of Sainz’s stature and experience will suit impeccably. His experience working with a variety of teams, including Ferrari and within the Red Bull organisation will serve him well.
And of course, Audi F1 team principal Andreas Seidl worked with Sainz during their spell at McLaren. And long before the Hamilton to Ferrari deal was made, the driver was linked with a move to the organisation which his legendary father races for, Carlos Sainz Senior winning the Dakar earlier this year for the German automaker.
The elder Sainz told Mundo Deportivo: “Audi will start an exciting project in Formula 1 and all the drivers, not just Carlos, should respect. I think Audi is a guarantee since I know very well the seriousness with which they take each project and what that mentality implies. The Volkswagen group, like Audi, must be respected.”
Speaking at an event launching his Kart chassis brand CS55, Sainz said: “I feel good, I try to focus on preparing for this season, which is very important for Ferrari” and when asked about Hamilton replacing him, he added: “Let him try my kart!”
Sainz: I’m aware of what I am worth as a driver
On a serious note, Sainz elaborated: “I’m not disappointed, I already knew some of the internal dynamics of Ferrari and I prepared to adapt to this with the team. I always try to look for a high level of pressure. From there, I have my techniques to deal with this level of pressure.”
As for his future after Ferrari, Sainz said: “I’m aware of what I am worth as a driver and for this reason when I look to the future I am very calm.” Suggesting the Spnaiard will pop up at Sauber next year, for a familiarisation season with VCARB before Audi sets up in the paddock two years from now.
In what rates as F1 News of the Century, the Hamilton to Maranello move unifies the sport’s two biggest brands and is hard to fault on all levels, something former Jean Alesi acknowledges.
However the former Ferrari F1 driver (1991 to end of 1995) has sympathy for Sainz: “It’s great that Lewis is coming, but I feel very sorry for Carlos, whose behaviour and performance in recent years has been more than positive, even surprising.
“Results, competitiveness and discipline. Strong and correct, a true gentleman of motorsports who at this point finds himself in an uncomfortable and undeserved situation. Although I am convinced that he will find other new opportunities, given his abilities and the prestige accumulated racing alongside [Charles] Leclerc,” lamented Alesi.
This season, his last in Red, Sainz is a free agent and it would be no surprise if he ramps it up a notch to prove a point to Ferrari and beat Leclerc, as he did in their first season as teammates in 2021. But no matter what, he won’t be there this time next year.
Whatever the case, “gentleman” Carlos Sainz Junior will be forgiven for being less of a team player, and doing things his way and for himself during his final season as a Red.
Big Question: what’s best for Carlos Sainz after Ferrari?