Sainz’s Future Following Hamilton’s Shock Move to Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton's unexpected switch to Ferrari for 2025 and raises a crucial question: what lies ahead for Carlos Sainz?


By Ben Bush
Published on February 2, 2024

Carlos Sainz Ferrari

With the stunning news that Lewis Hamilton is set to leave Mercedes for Ferrari, who just recently secured Charles Leclerc with a new multi-year agreement last Thursday, it becomes clear that there will be no space at Scuderia Ferrari for current team member Carlos Sainz after his contract ends in 2024.

READ MORE: Lewis Hamilton In SHOCK Move To Ferrari For 2025 F1 Season

Sainz has expressed a desire to have his future resolved before the upcoming season starts, aiming for a focused mindset. Initially brought into the team by former Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, Sainz anticipated that renegotiating terms with Ferrari’s new F1 leader, Fred Vasseur, would secure his position.

Having proven himself as a competitive force alongside Leclerc over their three years as teammates, Sainz was well-positioned to negotiate for a salary increase and a contract extension of at least two years, aligning with the introduction of new regulations in 2026.

However, contract discussions extended longer than expected. In December, Vasseur attributed the delay to the challenges of navigating a particularly busy year.

“I have to admit that the last part of the season was a big chaos for everybody,” said the Ferrari team principal.

“It was very demanding. We had meetings and we started the discussion, but we are late compared to the initial plan.”

Subsequent developments reveal that Vasseur and Ferrari’s president, John Elkann, were quietly considering an even more dramatic move.

Last summer saw Hamilton committing to Mercedes for an additional two years, extending his stay until the end of 2025. These negotiations took time and, as it turns out, the agreement was structured as a one-year deal with an option for an additional year. Included in this arrangement was an exit clause, which Hamilton’s team appears to have activated in response to Ferrari’s overture.

This situation positions Sainz as an available talent for the 2025 season, a time when, currently, an impressive 13 seats are expected to be open. Potential openings at teams like Haas, Red Bull, Williams, and Alpine, all of which have contracts expiring at the end of 2024, might not hold as much allure for him at this moment.

Therefore, Sainz and his management are likely to focus their attention on more promising opportunities.


Hamilton’s unexpected departure now leaves Mercedes with an available seat for 2025 and the future. This vacancy presents Sainz with the opportunity to transition from one leading team to another. Given his solid performance alongside Leclerc, Sainz is likely to be confident in his ability to integrate and perform comparably well with potential future teammate George Russell at Mercedes.

As Mercedes and Sainz consider their next moves, the initial races of 2024 will shed light on Mercedes’ progress in improving its ground-effects performance. With James Allison taking on a more direct role as technical director and the introduction of the new W15 car design, the focus will be on whether Mercedes, an eight-time constructors’ champion, has overcome its previous shortcomings to challenge Red Bull, or if it remains challenged.

Sainz could be seen by Mercedes as a strategic signing for the medium term. Mercedes’ young talent, Andrea Kimi Antonelli, has shown exceptional promise, clinching both the German and Italian Formula 4 championships in a single year and winning the Formula Regional European Championship last season. In 2024, he will advance to FIA F2 with Prema Racing. If Antonelli requires more time to secure the championship before Toto Wolff considers preparing him for F1 in a mid-field team, similar to George Russell’s experience at Williams, Sainz would serve as an effective interim choice.

Nevertheless, Hamilton’s move to Ferrari highlights the flexibility of F1 driver contracts, indicating that drivers can switch teams if the conditions are right. Therefore, the recent multi-year agreements Ferrari and McLaren have secured with Leclerc and Lando Norris, respectively (though the exact duration of these contracts was not disclosed), do not completely rule out the possibility of Mercedes pursuing one of them as Hamilton’s successor.

Red Bull

Sainz is likely to consider reuniting with Max Verstappen at Red Bull, especially given the team’s current competitive stance. With Sergio Perez‘s contract ending this year and his ongoing performance challenges, it seems unlikely the team will renew his tenure. This situation potentially opens up a spot for Sainz.

However, the first obstacle Sainz faces is Daniel Ricciardo, who is currently positioned as a potential replacement for Perez in 2025, or even earlier if Perez does not perform well in the early part of the season. Since being released by McLaren and returning to Red Bull in a third-driver role for 2023, Ricciardo has met all performance expectations. His contributions in private testing, simulator work, and a brief return to racing at AlphaTauri, despite an injury, have all been commendable.

With Sainz now available, Ricciardo still appears to be the leading candidate for Perez’s seat in 2025, and potentially earlier if Red Bull decides to make a change.

The second consideration for Sainz is the nature of his relationship with Verstappen if they were to become teammates again. Verstappen, a reigning triple champion with a contract at Red Bull until the end of 2028, likely has little concern over who his teammate might be, confident in his ability to outperform any newcomer. While Verstappen and Ricciardo share a friendly relationship, the same can’t be said about his time with Sainz during their tenure at Toro Rosso from 2015 to 2016, which was described by Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko as “toxic” due to their intense competition for advancement.

Though the dynamic between Verstappen and Sainz has presumably improved as both drivers have matured and carved out their respective careers in F1, this history may still play a role in Sainz’s deliberations.

READ MORE: FIA Releases Statement On F1’s Decision to Exclude Andretti

Aston Martin

Given the uncertain value of driver contracts in F1, a return to McLaren seems unlikely for Sainz, with Norris and Oscar Piastri recently securing their positions through new agreements. On the other hand, Aston Martin has been actively enhancing its facilities and recruiting prominent technical personnel, positioning itself as a promising option for growth.

In 2023, Aston Martin’s F1 leadership explored the potential recruitment of Norris and Leclerc, likely considering them as successors to Fernando Alonso, whose contract concludes at the year’s end. Despite this, the team is interested in prolonging Alonso’s tenure at Silverstone.

Another perspective considers Lawrence Stroll’s ambition to clinch championships and the recent influx of external funding, which necessitates satisfying new investors’ expectations. This scenario suggests that a more formidable contender than Lance Stroll might eventually be sought to elevate the team’s competitiveness. Lance Stroll’s position in the team is secure as long as he desires, yet, had Norris or Leclerc shown definite interest, it might have presented an irresistible opportunity for Stroll Sr.

With Ferrari and McLaren successfully retaining their star drivers, Sainz emerges as a new candidate for speculation. Joining Aston Martin could also hold a unique sentimental value for Sainz, offering him the chance to team up with Alonso, his childhood F1 idol.


Sainz could potentially take a more adventurous route. With both Sauber drivers’ contracts concluding at the end of the current season, Valtteri Bottas has indicated to Autosport that his future with the team, and a potential extension, hinges on securing a position for 2026 when Sauber transitions into Audi. This opens a window for Sainz to join in 2025, allowing him a year to adapt to the team, contribute to the operational and developmental aspects of the race team and car.

Another bold option for Sainz could be taking a year off, aiming to return refreshed in 2026 as the sport introduces new powertrain and chassis regulations.

Audi’s entrance into Formula 1 offers Sainz the chance to be at the forefront of a significant automotive brand’s foray into the sport, potentially playing a central role in the team’s development similar to Hamilton’s impact at Mercedes. As Sainz approaches his 30th birthday, he could anticipate continuing in F1 for another seven to eight years, a period sufficient for Audi to make a substantial impact on the grid, provided the brand is dedicated and invests wisely.

READ MORE: Mercedes Announces Departure of Seven-Time F1 Champion

Joining Audi could also be financially lucrative for Sainz, an aspect that might mitigate any initial disappointments should Audi’s debut not meet expectations. Despite Sauber’s silence on Audi’s F1 project details, attributed to avoiding conflicts with Alfa Romeo, its previous automotive partner, there has been speculation about the readiness of Audi’s engine program and the commitment level from its executives, although these concerns have been officially refuted.

The Audi option gains an additional layer of allure following Carlos Sainz Sr.’s recent Dakar Rally victory with Audi, marking the brand’s first win in the event with the electrified RS Q e-tron. With the off-road program winding down to focus on F1, Sainz Jr. has the opportunity to continue his family’s success with Audi, turning a new chapter in both his and the brand’s motorsport legacy.

Source: Autosport

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About The Author

Chief Editor

Ben Bush

Ben is our chief editor specialising in F1 from the 1990s to the modern era. Ben has been following Formula 1 since 1986 and is an avid researcher who loves understanding the technology that makes it one of the most exciting motorsport on the planet. He listens to podcasts about F1 on a daily basis, and enjoys reading books from the inspirational Adrian Newey to former F1 drivers.

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