Carlos Sainz’s F1 2025 conundrum: ‘Waste of a year’ or a one-year deal?

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz speaks in a press conference.

Carlos Sainz speaks to media.

From a “wasted” year with Stake to “a year” with Mercedes, Carlos Sainz does not have an easy decision to make for 2025, except not to sit out the season.

Dropped by Ferrari even before the first race of the 2024 F1 season, Sainz is using the season as an audition for a 2025 job.

‘Does Carlos want to be thrown around team to team?’

And it’s a case of so far, so great for the Spaniard.

On the podium in Bahrain, he sat out the Saudi Arabian GP having undergone an appendectomy on qualifying day, and came back from that to win the Australian Grand Prix just 16 days later.

And yet it is Sainz who is, in his own words, “jobless” for next season after Ferrari signed Lewis Hamilton in his stead.

The Spaniard has been linked to Audi, which is Stake/Sauber team through to the end of 2025, as well as Mercedes and Red Bull.

None of his options, though, are a dead-ringers.

“It’s so difficult because I was always of the opinion that he will probably go to Stake for a year, bed himself in, and then it’ll become Audi because of his ties with his dad was there,” F1 presenter and commentator Matt Gallagher told the Sky Sports podcast.

“And perhaps Audi will produce an amazing car in 2026, although that is take a bit of a miracle I would say joining the sport with the change of the regulations.

“And now as you see these performances come in for Carlos, you go that would just be such a waste of a year for him to go to a team like Stake where there are quite clearly one of the slowest teams on the grid.

“So then you think maybe Mercedes. But then, will he accept a year if then Kimi Antonelli is absolutely knocking on the door and Mercedes have promised him this that, and the other?

“Does Carlos want to be thrown around team to team, and then he goes into new regulations, and then he maybe goes to Audi. That is an option.

“Then there’s Red Bull, which is of course being spoken about as well, who he of course has ties from there with previously.

“Perez, I think you’d have to kind of take his performance this weekend as a bit of an anomaly when you look at the last two where he has been pretty decent at the start of this year.

“He had some damage that Christian Horner that he picked up as well passing Alonso which affected his pace. So I think we have to wait a few more races to see where Perez’s trajectory is going.

“But I wish I had a crystal ball because I’m not decided right now. But I still think perhaps, you know if he’s trying to bed himself in and become a World Champion and take over a team, then perhaps Stake to Audi is the way forward for him.

“That’s sad because I don’t want him to be wasted next year.”

With the option of a year out of Sainz put to him, Gallagher replied: “No, did you not see the fire in him and how much he pushed to come back? No way he’ll take a year on the sidelines.” recommends

Carlos Sainz pushing Ferrari towards buyer’s remorse after Lewis Hamilton swap

The F1 2024 Drivers’ Championship standings without Max Verstappen

Bernie Collins: Sainz needs to look to 2026

His fellow pundit and former Aston Martin strategist Bernie Collins reckons Sainz will be on every team’s radar, but that the driver needs to look to what’s on offer for 2026.

“I think every team should want to take him and I think Ferrari should maybe be questioning if they’ve done the right thing – maybe that’s too bold a question to pose – but you know every team should be looking at him as a very strong driver to put in their line-up,” she said.

“I think the difficulty for Carlos is unless a drive comes at someone like Red Bull, he’s going to struggle to get a better car than he currently has.

“And that’s a difficulty in terms of him trying to find a position, and maybe he needs to look ahead to the 2026 regulation change. And maybe make a sort of step thinking that next year might not be the year.

“I think every team should be talking to him, and I’m sure he is talking to multiple teams about it.

“And to bring someone from the improvements from Ferrari have done, how they’ve changed the car, they’ve improved the car, that will be key.”

Read next: Revealed: Toto Wolff names four drivers on Mercedes shortlist to replace Lewis Hamilton