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Sainz has plenty of choice for 2025 – but that could also bring a headache

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari prepares to drive on the grid prior

Carlos Sainz cut a relaxed figure when he faced a series of questions centring around Lewis Hamilton taking his seat at Ferrari for 2025 and his next move during Ferrari’s launch last week. That is because the Spaniard, a two-time race winner in F1, will know he has plenty of options elsewhere on the grid and is one of the most sought-after racers right now given his experience and current form.

It would be easy to get demoralised when a team you love to race for decides they don’t want to continue with you, especially when you feel like you’ve done a very impressive job in the preceding three seasons with them.

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However, being usurped by the greatest driver of the generation makes it slightly easier to take (Ferrari would have almost certainly re-signed him had long-time target Hamilton not been available) – as does the knowledge there are a plethora of teams who are understood to have already been fighting for his signature.

It would be fair to say that of the eight teams that have free seats in 2025 – Red Bull, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Alpine, Williams, RB, Sauber and Haas – all eight are possible landing spots. There has never been a better time to lose your seat and need a ride somewhere on the grid.

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With that in mind, Sainz is not in a rush to decide. Whatever happens, the Spaniard will know he will end up with a good seat.

What needs consideration is what type of project does he want? Is it one that will likely give him a car to fight for podiums and wins almost immediately, such as Red Bull, Mercedes or Aston Martin? Or is it one which will require some patience but offers the opportunity for him to likely lead the team and guide them up the pecking order, such as Alpine, Williams, RB, Sauber and Haas?

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“I know I have been performing well recently,” he said when we chatted last week. “I know there will be very good opportunities out there to remain competitive in the future in other teams.

“Now it is time to analyse carefully, listen a bit to everyone, hear a bit from everyone, and make sure I give myself some time to know exactly what I want to do in the future and where I’m going to spend my next, who knows, three or four years of my career.

“I’m turning 30 this year, which means I’m probably around my peak, so I want to make sure I give myself some time to analyse and hear a bit everyone to see where I can go.”

FIORANO MODENESE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 14: Carlos Sainz of Spain and Scuderia Ferrari drives the new

Sainz driving the new Ferrari SF-24 car on track during the official filming day ahead of the start of the 2024 season, his final one with Ferrari

There are obviously some projects that will be higher up his shortlist than others, but for now, everything is believed to be on the table.

One thing is for certain, he will want stability with whatever contract he signs. His last three contracts have been multi-year, which gave him continuity and removed any uncertainty so he could focus on the job. The prospect of a one-year deal or a one plus one, like Hamilton had with Mercedes, will be an unappealing offer.

“Wherever I go next, I will look for stability and an interesting project, to become a champion in the future,” he added. “I believe in stability. I’m a big believer in consistency, in getting to know the people you work with, getting yourself involved in the team that you’re in for more than one or two years, so it’s no secret, that is my preference and that is why I need to give myself time to decide well.”

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A Sainz-Mercedes partnership?

While choice can be a good thing, it can also deliver a headache, especially with new regulations set for 2026 – that will feature new power unit rules that dictate the use of 100% sustainable fuels and a great reliance on battery power – potentially shaking up the sport’s competitive pecking order.

Working out which team will best react to those will be one of the challenges facing Sainz and his management team.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Fourth placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari reacts in parc ferme

Sainz has plenty of choice for 2025, but that could bring headaches for the Spaniard

Who will have the best Power Unit? Does the team have a strong fuel supplier? How strong is their financial clout? How heavily is the operation investing? Are they strengthening infrastructure? Do they have an updated simulator and wind tunnel? What is their long-term plan?

A Sainz-Mercedes partnership would make a lot of sense. They’ll get a race-winning driver, who has ruthless consistency, is super strong with feedback and has had a great relationship with all his team mates. Sainz would get a car that will keep him at the sharp end and an operation that has world-class facilities and the financial clout to battle at the front.

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However, Mercedes will need to work out their plan for protégé Kimi Antonelli. If he is strong this year, would they bring him into Williams next year and then Mercedes the following year?

If so, they would only have a seat for a year – and that will be unappealing to Sainz. Do they plan to bring Antonelli in for 2027 or 2028, giving him either more time in F2 and/or time at another team like Williams before promoting him to Mercedes? That would mean they need a team mate for George Russell for two or three years – a much more appealing project for Sainz and others.

You would have thought Sainz will back himself to beat Russell and make boss Toto Wolff consider keeping the Spaniard, rather than the Briton, if one had to go to make way for Antonelli.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 13: Andrea Kimi Antonelli of Italy and PREMA Racing (4) sits in the

Mercedes will need to work out their plan for protégé Kimi Antonelli

Options across the grid

Aston Martin is also a very strong option. At 42, Fernando Alonso won’t go on forever – and if billionaire Lawrence Stroll is intent on continuing the team’s positive momentum for the foreseeable future, he will want to recruit a strong, consistent, experienced driver that can drive a team forward for the long-term. Sainz would fit that bill.

Williams, though, are believed to be big admirers of Sainz. They offer the Spaniard a chance to get on a train that is building impressive momentum and is very well-resourced going forward. It’s a risk, of course, but one that could pay off well.

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Then you’ve got Sauber, which will become Audi’s works team in 2026. Sainz knows their chief Andreas Seidl very well, having spent two years at McLaren together, and his father Carlos Sainz Snr has strong links with incoming Audi, having spent the last three years racing for the German manufacturer in the Dakar Rally and thus will understand just how strong a motorsport organisation they are.

Red Bull and RB are options with Sainz parting ways with the Red Bull family on good terms, having come through their junior programme, while Alpine could work, too, if he fancies a return to a team he knows having raced for them under the Renault banner.

Plenty, then, for Sainz and his team to chew on over the next few weeks and months.

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