The so-called “biggest loser” in the 2025 driver market, Carlos Sainz has gone from refilling his fountain pen to scouring through the class ads.
Last Wednesday as Sainz tucked himself into bed, perhaps after a long day on the golf course, rumours began to trickle through that something seismic was about to happen. And it was said to be Lewis Hamilton would be leaving Mercedes to race for Ferrari.
We’ve all heard that one. Again, and again, and again.
Carlos Sainz is in the job market after losing his Ferrari drive
But by lunchtime on Thursday one source after another unnamed source claimed it was happening, and by the evening it was confirmed.
Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of this year to join Ferrari. So where does that leave Sainz?
Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 World Champion, described Sainz as the “big loser” in Hamilton’s landmark move, even going as far as to tell Gazzetta dello Sport that “his bargaining power, with Audi or anyone else, is obviously much less”.
That no fewer than four teams, that’s almost half the grid, are reportedly interested in his services says otherwise.
From Mercedes to Sauber, we rank Sainz’s options from worst to best.
Sainz has been heavily linked to Sauber, Stake or, as they’ll be known in 2026, Audi for far longer than he’s been searching for a new job.
The rumours emerged back in April last year with a vehement Sainz hitting back at “uncorroborated and invented rumours” that angered him. So that’s a no, right?
Right, he said, adding: “My intention is to stay at Ferrari for many years.”
But with Ferrari off the table and Carlos Sainz Snr. whispering in his son’s ear that Audi’s success is a “guarantee”, Sauber are once again in the hunt.
However, their ability to achieve success, and the timeframe for that, are big question marks.
Racing under the Alfa Romeo banner last season the team had a forgettable, lacklustre, and uninspiring season. And as one disappointing Grand Prix weekend bled into another, worryingly there wasn’t any sign of them coming good.
Yes it was a year of change with Sainz’s old boss Andreas Seidl taking over and James Key signing on as the new technical director, but unless this year’s C44 comes out of the blocks firing, Sainz should probably take them off the list as other teams will be further along in their development paths.
Especially as Williams, another team that made big changes last season, most notably as James Vowles took over as team boss, showed they can step it up. And step it up they did.
One of 2023’s most improved teams, talking start to finish not mid-season gains, Williams went from scoring eight points in 2022 and finishing bottom of the log to scoring 28 last year and claiming seventh place. That bought a welcome cash injection along with it.
What the FW45 did right, it did very right with its impressive straight-line speed. Alas, the car had weaknesses in that it didn’t like heat or wind.
It was, though, a huge improvement on its predecessor which bodes well for the future as it suggests the team understanding of the ground-effect aerodynamic concept in growing.
But it is Vowles’ reign that is perhaps most encouraging with the former Mercedes man having learnt the job at Toto Wolff’s side. Wolff being the man who orchestrated a run of seven Drivers’ titles for Mercedes, and eight Constructors’.
Vowles, having done a thorough examination of Williams’ strengths and weaknesses, has already begun to put into place his own building blocks, including the arrival of new chief technical officer Pat Fry and the steady upgrading of the team’s facilities.
Williams oozes promise these days, and a Sainz/Alex Albon partnership would bring the right mix of fire and ice to Vowles’ plans.
2) Aston Martin
One team that did realise a lot of their promise last season was Aston Martin. From seventh in 2022 with 55 points and not a single podium to fifth last season with 280 points and eight top-three results.
And were it not for a mid-season slump when the team got it “wrong” with their development path, it could’ve been a lot more. Maybe even a first win.
With a new state-of-the-art factory and wind tunnel at their disposal, Aston Martin have done what Williams haven’t in recent years and that’s invest in infrastructure. They also invested in manpower, bringing in Dan Fallows from Red Bull as well as a few of his old colleagues.
It saw a very Red Bull-esque AMR23 hit the track but, given Red Bull were the reigning World Champions, that was an inspired decision.
Taking the fight to Red Bull in the opening rounds, yes they lost their way a bit but they were back on track in the final few races and it showed in the results with Fernando Alonso scoring podium number eight.
While they may still go another season without a win, largely because of Max Verstappen’s prowess, one would be hard-pressed to bet against Aston Martin’s progress getting them to that point in the final year of the current cars, 2025.
Finances, infrastructure, know-how. Aston Martin have the ingredients for success, but they do need a stronger line-up to take them there. Sainz and Alonso, now that would be a powerhouse Spanish couple.
According to F1 correspondent Lawrence Barretto there have been “multiple conversations” between Sainz’s management team and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff throughout the past few seasons. Sainz also personally knows Toto very well.
A straight swap with Hamilton would, history highlights, be Sainz’s best option for future success; after all, Mercedes were the reigning champions until Verstappen and Red Bull came along.
With seven Drivers’ titles since 2014 and eight Constructors’ Championships, Mercedes may be in a spot of bother at the moment. Still, it’s unfathomable to think they no longer know how to build a championship-winning car.
This year they’ve got James Allison back at the helm of the design team to spearhead the W15. Bahrain will tell us, and more to the point, Sainz, a lot.
If under Allison’s guidance, Mercedes take a leap forward then it’s a no-brainer if Wolff puts a contract on the table. It may even be a middle finger to Ferrari.
Sainz and George Russell may not be a fearsome line-up but it’s one that would make the rest of the grid sit up and take notice.
While Russell reeks raw speed, Sainz has been heralded for his feedback and ability to develop the car. And in them both, Toto Wolff would have two drivers determined to prove a point.