Why Carlos Sainz has no need to be angry about Audi F1 rumours

Jamie Woodhouse
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz in the pre-race press conference. Jeddah March 2023.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz addresses the media ahead of the race weekend. Saudi Arabia March 2023.

Carlos Sainz was extremely frustrated by the emergence of rumours linking him to Audi, but it is hard to understand why.

Audi are really gathering pace now with their Formula 1 preparations. They will not arrive on the grid until 2026, but already the German brand plans on having its first prototype power unit on the test bench before 2023 is out.

Audi’s place on the 2026 grid was confirmed after a partnership was agreed with Sauber, meaning that team, currently operating as Alfa Romeo, will become the Audi works squad from the 2026 campaign, running with the Audi power unit.

Normally you would say it is far too early to start talking about who could form Audi’s first driver line-up, the current Alfa Romeo duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu hoping they get a look in, but this is Formula 1 after all, so the rumour mill is spinning already.

Former Haas driver and now Mercedes reserve Mick Schumacher has been the name most commonly popping up, understandably so considering he shares the same roots with Audi, though it was a surprise to many when a report emerged claiming that Sainz is actually the driver at the top of Audi’s wishlist.

But such a suggestion made Sainz see red, and this time not the red of Ferrari, the team which he is contracted to until the end of 2024.

“I don’t understand why people are talking about what could happen in 2026 when I still don’t have a contract for 2025,” he said, as per Marca.

“It angers me when uncorroborated and invented rumours come out.”

Sainz could be forgiven for wanting to make sure that his focus remains on Ferrari, but is it really such a bad thing to have Audi credited with taking a serious interest in him?

Audi are coming to Formula 1 with lofty ambitions, this is not going to be a team content with running in the midfield, the goal is to become a title-contending outfit by their third season, and that sounds like a pretty tempting project to us.

Ferrari plan on achieving title glory before Audi even arrive, but 2024 is now looking like the earliest possible opportunity, which then poses the question of whether Sainz would even still be there when that season is done…

Sainz may have 20 points to team-mate Charles Leclerc’s six after the first three rounds of F1 2023, but really it is Sainz who must pick up the pace if he wants to prove to Ferrari that he can be their long-term bet for success.

If it were not for a power unit failure in Bahrain, a 10-place grid drop in Jeddah and then spinning out on the first lap in Australia after contact with Lance Stroll, then Leclerc would very likely be ahead of Sainz right now in the Drivers’ standings to back up his early advantage with the stats.

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We are not saying that Sainz is finished at Ferrari, or that he needs to be breaking down the door at Audi, but it would not hurt to avoid completely distancing himself from the team if they truly are keen.

Sainz’s stock has arguably dropped in recent times despite swapping McLaren for Ferrari, with Leclerc having been the stronger of the pair in 2022 and continuing that trend so far in F1 2023, meaning Sainz has been battling against the talk that Ferrari should be recognising Leclerc as their number one driver.

Should Ferrari look to tie Sainz down long-term beyond 2024, then this Audi situation becomes less of a dilemma, but if the struggle to find his footing with the Scuderia continues, then the potential opportunity would start to look more and more like a no-brainer.

He already has the family link to Audi, his father Carlos Sainz Sr a part of parent brand Volkswagen’s World Rally Championship project, and it could serve as the opportunity to step out of that Ferrari environment where Leclerc is the homegrown star and generally regarded as their World Champion in waiting.

We know how quick and consistent Sainz can be when he is comfortable with the team and machinery, and interest, even if it is only rumours, is no bad thing.

F1’s ‘Smooth Operator’ should embrace those rumours as it never hurts in this sport to have a Plan B.

If the Audi rumours prove to have concrete foundations in the months to come, Sainz has the option of joining an exciting new project or, at the very least, a valuable bargaining chip in his Ferrari negotiations if the duo decide to explore options in continuing this current partnership.