APRIL 17, 2024

Mercedes move may not happen for Sainz

Carlos Sainz's rumoured move to Mercedes for 2025 may not yet be set in stone.

Carlos Sainz, Japanese GP 2024
© Ferrari

What is for sure is that Toto Wolff's choice to replace the Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton next year is yet to be officially announced.

It is clear that the team boss and co-owner's number 1 target is Max Verstappen, as Red Bull's disruptive power struggle continues to bubble in the background.

Also reasonably clear is that serious talks with soon-to-be Ferrari refugee Sainz have taken place.

But as recently as Tuesday, the on-form 29-year-old himself was quoted by F1's official website as saying that his next move also depends on other people, on other teams - what they choose to go for.

Wolff's 17-year-old protege Kimi Antonelli has now kicked off an extensive test program in older Mercedes F1 cars, as per the strict testing rules.

And a new report in the Kolner Express newspaper claims that Wolff regards another driver he manages - Esteban Ocon - as the other 'plan B' in the event that Verstappen stays at Red Bull.

We could take a young driver and give him the opportunity to immediately fight for victories without much pressure, Wolff said. Or put an experienced driver in the car who can help us get out of our current situation.

The rumour mill suggests that Sainz definitely has the option of moving to Audi-owned Sauber on a long-term deal, with Nico Hulkenberg tipped as another strong candidate.

Sauber CEO Andreas Seidl has long since realised that new drivers are needed, reports the veteran F1 journalist Roger Benoit, writing in Blick newspaper.

(Valtteri) Bottas and (Guanyu) Zhou are a thing of the past. New motivation is needed in the cockpit now. Even the most loyal Sauber fans agree on this, Benoit added.

He also thinks Williams is another option for Sainz, even if the Spaniard himself is quoted as saying: I don't want to be stuck in the midfield or even further back in 2025.

It leaves Mercedes as arguably Sainz's best overall option for 2025, amid reports that Wolff may only be offering him a firm one-year offer - with the team-sided 'option' to extend into F1's new era in 2026.

According to former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher, it's a critical moment for Wolff as he attempts to steer the formerly-dominant team through far less competitive times.

His client teams, especially McLaren, are beating him, and that is the worst thing that can happen to him, he told Sky Deutschland.

"Their number 1 driver is leaving them because he no longer believes in the team. That's a big problem for Toto. He has to make sure that he remains attractive as a team so that the really good drivers want to go there.

Mercedes is in a mess right now, Schumacher continued. You can see it in Toto's reactions in the media. I admire him and I like him, but what is going on there now is a disaster.