Carlos Sainz playing ‘dangerous game of poker’ with ‘one-year’ Mercedes option on the table

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz and prominent logos of Mercedes and Audi

Is Carlos Sainz closer to resolving his F1 future?

Carlos Sainz is playing a “dangerous game of poker” with Audi reportedly giving him until Monaco to commit but he wants to wait on Max Verstappen’s Mercedes decision.

Dropped by Ferrari even before the first race of this season, it was thought that Sainz would find a home at Sauber, which will be rebranded Audi in 2026.

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But with Lewis Hamilton off to Ferrari, thus leaving a seat open at Mercedes, the Spaniard is said to risking it all on the possibility of joining George Russell at the Brackley squad.

So much so that respected Spanish journalist Antonio Lobato took to social media to claim that Sainz had “missed” a deadline with Audi in the hope of securing a “more competitive” seat.

Sainz denied this, telling the media in Miami: “No, that’s not correct. There’s no truth about it. As I’ve said before, there are certain things that don’t depend fully on myself and there’s going to be some waiting to be done.”

One of those ‘things’, claims F1-Insider.com, is Max Verstappen.

Publicly courted by Toto Wolff, the Red Bull driver may not be heading to Mercedes next season but he could yet make the move in 2026. And therein lies Sainz’s hold-up.

“The catch”, as F1-Insider put it, is that Wolff is “only offering him an option for after 2025”, so “effectively only a one-year contract.

“The Stuttgart team wants to remain flexible if Max Verstappen decides late to say goodbye to Red Bull or junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli is ready for Mercedes as early as 2026.”

Sainz therefore has to decide between one guaranteed season at Mercedes, or a long-term future with Audi.

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Audi, though, won’t wait forever.

Having already announced Nico Hulkenberg as one of Stake’s 2025 drivers, the team will reportedly say goodbye to Valtteri Bottas while Zhou Guanyu’s spot will be determined by Sainz’s decision.

The Spaniard has until Monaco to make the call.

“Sainz doesn’t have much time left for his dangerous game of poker,” claims the German publication. “Audi wants an answer by the GP in Monaco in two and a half weeks at the latest.

“Otherwise, the people of Ingolstadt will look for an alternative. Among others, the French Alpine pilots Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly are on the list as Plan B.

“If Sainz chooses Mercedes, he could be without a contract again in 2026 when Verstappen or Antonelli come and the door is closed at Audi.”

As for Red Bull, the publication claims that “door is closed” with Sergio Perez set to stay on in 2025.

Sainz’s father, Carlos Sainz Snr, said: “There is a lot of speculation at the moment, but there is nothing to report yet.”

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