Where will Carlos Sainz drive in 2025?

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Carlos Sainz is a sought-after driver. Formula One’s most recent race winner is currently without a race seat for next year, having lost his Ferrari drive to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. However, Sainz is more than putting himself in the shop window, with an impressive podium in Bahrain topped by capitalising on Max Verstappen’s retirement to win the Australian Grand Prix, just two weeks after having surgery to remove his appendix.

With more than half the grid out of contract at the end of the season, Sainz certainly has options, and there are few, if any, better candidates on the market than the Spaniard. Sainz offers speed, consistency and intelligence – qualities that make him a rounded and compatible member of any team.

Where will he end up? It appears at this moment that it is Sainz who holds the cards but, at the age of 29, Sainz will know that this next career move could decide whether he gets a shot at a world title. In this piece, we will explore each of the ten teams, from least likely to most, to try and predict who Sainz will drive for in the coming years.

10. RB

No. This is the only option that makes zero sense. Whilst RB would drop everything to re-sign their former driver, Sainz has far loftier ambitions than a team that is hamstrung by its reputation as a junior team to Red Bull. Sainz is in F1 to win titles, and RB is not the place for him.

Chance of happening: 0%

9. Haas

Again, very, very unlikely. Whilst Haas have had a very strong start to the season, finally getting on top of their tyre management and consistently challenging for minor points, they are unlikely to have the infrastructure or reputation to challenge at the front in the near future, if ever.

Though a Sainz/Hulkenberg lineup is a strong one – the pair were Renault teammates in 2018 – it would be wasted at a team like Haas who are midfielders at best, especially given how they still rely on Ferrari for most of their car parts as well as their engine.

Chance of happening: 0%

Sainz may not have the patience for a project that could take years

8. Williams

Williams have had a disappointing start to the 2024 season, but there is no doubt that they are generally on an upwards trajectory at the helm of James Vowles. Logan Sargeant’s race seat is coming under increasing pressure and the team certainly have the desire to challenge at the top.

Yet Sainz may not have the patience for a project that could take years. He is currently in his prime and would not want to waste time battling in the midfield. If he is interested in building a team around him, there is a current backmarker team who would be far more desirable…

Chance of happening: 1%

7. Ferrari

Whilst signing Hamilton was a blockbuster move that was even able to raise Ferrari’s share prices, and the Brit will undoubtedly bring value to the team, both commercially and via his experience of working with title-winning teams, there are many people in the Ferrari camp who will be thinking twice about this decision.

Sainz and Leclerc were the perfect balance as teammates. When the chips were down, Leclerc had that slight edge which reduced the chances of any friction, but Sainz has proven over and over that he is the man to pick up reliable points and capitalise on any opportunities presented to him.

Could Ferrari try and backtrack and cancel Hamilton’s deal? No F1 contract is 100% secure, as we have seen in the past, but the reputational damage and controversy caused by going back on their decision will surely put Ferrari off from doing anything rash.

Chance of happening: 2%

6. Alpine

A return to Enstone perhaps? Unlikely. Alpine are currently a team in chaos, having dropped to the very back of the grid after a change in car philosophy. Major technical staff have departed in recent years and there is no smoke without fire. There are too many established names turning their backs on the project.

However, Alpine will always maintain the allure of being a manufacturer team, who have control over their entire car. Should some miracle happen, and Renault nail the engine regulations in 2026, this team will be able to battle at the front. However, Sainz will want to invest in evidence of progress, not ifs and buts.

Chance of happening: 2%

McLaren is the move that makes the most sense for everyone involved

5. McLaren

Hear me out – this is the move that makes the most sense for everyone involved. Yes, McLaren have two contracted drivers who are performing at an extremely high level, but it is hard to deny that Sainz would represent a slight upgrade on Oscar Piastri.

We know that Sainz works well at the Woking-based team, having been part of the rebuild during his three years there. We know that he has an excellent relationship with Lando Norris, both on and off track. We know that McLaren are currently moving rapidly up the grid and were at times the second-best car last year.

McLaren have a history of breaking contracts with top drivers. Daniel Ricciardo was signed for 2023, but he was replaced by Piastri nonetheless. It would be extremely harsh on Piastri, but should Sainz deliver, then it would pay off for McLaren.

As for Sainz, he would be able to return to a team who is currently challenging at the front, has the resources to compete for wins and titles and, most importantly, has a strong, but beatable teammate. Norris has certainly improved since Sainz left McLaren in 2021, but Sainz will believe that he can beat the Brit over the course of a season, especially if a world title is on the line.

Will it actually happen? Unlikely. When McLaren replaced Ricciardo, it was because the Aussie was underperforming, but Piastri is doing enough to earn the team valuable points. Why risk everything, only to slightly upgrade your lineup?

Chance of happening: 10%

4. Mercedes

Mercedes represents a move that has become increasingly unlikely as the season has progressed. Initially, a straight swap with Hamilton looked viable for both teams, with Sainz serving as a seat warmer and number two driver to George Russell, whilst teenage superstar Andrea Kimi Antonelli continued his progression through the junior ranks.

The game has since changed. Whilst Sainz’s reputation has risen, Mercedes’ has dropped. Their underwhelming start to the season has left fans questioning whether Mercedes can ever return to their glory days. Furthermore, Sainz will know his work would be cut out to establish himself in the team, as Antonelli is likely to take one of the seats in the near future and Russell has worked with the Mercedes setup for years, coming through their junior academy.

However, Mercedes are an established brand who have been at the front of the grid for over a decade. It would be a safe move for Sainz, especially for the next couple of years. Perhaps he could take the Mercedes seat and see how the driver market develops over the next two years?

Chance of happening: 15%

Should the Dutchman decide to depart, he will leave a huge void that must be filled by a top driver

3. Sauber

Arguably the most likely candidate when Sainz’s Ferrari departure was first announced. Team Principal Andreas Seidl has long been a fan of Sainz, having worked with the Spaniard at McLaren, and has never hidden his desire to complete this signing.

With the Audi takeover incoming, Sainz would be part of a full manufacturer team who look to dominate the sport like Mercedes did when they rejoined the grid in 2010. Furthermore, Sainz’s father’s links to the team through his rally experience further solidifies the move. Audi have ambitions to win titles, and Sainz appears to be their number one choice for a poster boy.

The cons? If Mercedes’ start to the season has been poor, then Sauber’s has been abysmal. The team are pointless after three races, suffering from a slow car and terrible pit stops. If a team cannot sort out something as basic as wheel guns, is it right to put your faith in them to build an entire championship winning car?

Chance of happening: 20%

2. Aston Martin

This move carries a lot of similarities to Mercedes but carries a lot of perks that the Brackley-based team simply cannot offer. On the other hand, there is the question mark over who Sainz would replace at Aston Martin. Lance Stroll currently has a rolling contract, but there has never been a better time for him to leave F1, should the growing pressure on his seat become too much. Aston Martin are commencing their endurance racing project from 2025, offering a viable route for Stroll to continue his racing career in a different category.

Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, is very much the wildcard in the driver market – a role that he is accustomed to. Still performing at a very high level despite his age, he will have an eagle-eye on the drama at Red Bull and Mercedes, as he desperately hunts for one more opportunity to challenge for the title.

Should Sainz join Aston Martin, he will quickly become the team leader. Given the amount of investment from team owner Lawrence Stroll, and the upward trajectory that the team has been on over the last 18 months, this could well be the place where Sainz goes to win his first ever drivers title. A very tempting offer indeed.

Chance of happening: 20%

1. Red Bull

Can Carlos Sainz land a drive in the championship-leading car for 2025? Sergio Perez is out of contract at the end of the year, and, despite a solid start, his seat is in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo, who was being lined up to replace the Mexican, has endured a disastrous start to the season and looks far less likely to return to Red Bull.

Then there is the question mark over Max Verstappen’s future. Should the Dutchman decide to depart, he will leave a huge void that must be filled by a top driver. Team Principal Christian Horner was very keen to heap praise on Sainz after his win in Australia and it appears that Sainz is very much on Red Bull’s radar.

The question is, would Sainz want to play second fiddle to Max Verstappen? The two drivers debuted together at Toro Rosso in 2015, and there was friction between the two drivers, especially amongst their fathers. Whilst Sainz will be keen to establish himself as an equal to Verstappen and has the temperament to cope with the pressure, it is hard to see anyone beating the Dutchman on current form.

Despite this, I am going to stick to my prediction at the start of the season and say that Carlos Sainz will be racing in Red Bull overalls in 2025. Should Verstappen leave, this move is a no-brainer. Should Perez depart, it becomes more complicated. However, the pull of a championship winning car is too much to resist. If anyone can keep their head and consistently challenge Max Verstappen at Red Bull, it is the ‘Smooth Operator’ himself.

Chance of happening: 30%

Image: Jen Ross via Wikimedia Commons

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