Carlos Sainz a ‘no go’ as clear front-runner for open F1 2025 seat emerges

Oliver Harden
Carlos Sainz holds his hands to his face in a press conference

Carlos Sainz's agonising search for an F1 2025 seat may be close to ending

Carlos Sainz is considered a “no-go” to join Alpine for the F1 2025 season, with Sauber driver Zhou Guanyu emerging as the front-runner to replace Esteban Ocon. 

That is the claim of Sky F1 reporter Craig Slater, who says Alpine’s talks with Sainz and Zhou’s F1 2024 team-mate Valtteri Bottas have not progressed.

Carlos Sainz out of Alpine F1 2025 running as Zhou Guanyu hopes grow

Sainz – who previously spent a short spell with Alpine (then Renault) in 2017/18 – remains without a confirmed seat for the F1 2025 season having been informed in pre-season that he will be replaced at Ferrari by seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton at the end of this year.

Having seen opportunities close at Mercedes and Red Bull over recent weeks, Sainz’s options are now believed to be between Williams and Audi, who will take over the existing Sauber team in F1 2026.

It has been speculated that an announcement on Sainz’s F1 2025 plans could be made ahead of his home race, the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, this weekend.

Where will Carlos Sainz be racing in F1 2025?

👉 Carlos Sainz to Williams: Five reasons why rumoured F1 2025 move isn’t as crazy as it sounds

👉 F1 2025 driver line-up: Who is already confirmed for the 2025 grid?

Alpine are on the hunt for a new driver for F1 2025 after confirming earlier this month that Esteban Ocon will leave the team at the end of the season.

With talks with Sainz and Bottas at a standstill and Mick Schumacher – currently representing Alpine in the World Endurance Championship – deemed unlikely to secure an F1 return, Slater has claimed Zhou is emerging as the leading candidate to replace Ocon.

Zhou and Bottas are increasingly likely to leave Sauber at the end of this season as the team prepare to transition to Audi, having already signed Nico Hulkenberg from Haas for F1 2025 and making no secret of their desire to land Sainz’s signature.

And Slater has claimed that Zhou – who became F1’s first Chinese driver when he joined Sauber in F1 2022 and brings considerable financial support – could bring commercial benefits to Alpine parent company Renault after a recent tie-up with Chinese company Geely.

Appearing on Sky Sports, he said: “It’s a long list and a fluid list.

“Who’s on it? The likes of Jack Doohan, who is their reserve driver, and Victor Martins, who is going really well in Formula 2.

“And then there’s this little clutch of drivers who are available and on the market at the moment.

“Carlos Sainz has had talks with Alpine, but I’m told that’s a no go.

“Valtteri Bottas has also had some discussions with Alpine, but those talks did not progress.

“What about Mick Schumacher? He is driving in endurance racing for the team. I’m told he is down the pecking order in terms of getting a Formula 1 race seat for them next year.

“One name which keeps coming back is Zhou Guanyu.

“He used to be in the Alpine academy and there’s also some commercial reasons why he might be desirable for them.

“For a start, it exposes Alpine to the enormous Chinese market, which is the biggest automobile market in the world.

“There has also been a recent car alliance between Renault, which is Alpine’s parent company, and [Chinese company] Geely. That could be a big factor.”

Slater’s comments come after the respected reporter Michael Schmidt lifted the lid on Zhou’s desperate attempts to retain his place on the grid for F1 2025.

Schmidt claimed that Zhou and his sponsors are prepared to offer Haas an astronomical amount of money – thought to be in the region of €30-35million – in order to force his way into the team’s plans for next season.

However, he suggested that the Ferrari customers are likely to turn down Zhou’s advances in favour of signing their preferred line-up of Ocon and Ferrari junior Oliver Bearman, who is likely to graduate to F1 next season after impressing in a one-off appearance for Ferrari at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix earlier this season.

Haas announced on Monday that Bearman will participate in first practice at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend as preparations for an expected F1 promotion continue.

Speaking at the recent Canadian Grand Prix, Zhou revealed he is targeting a return to Alpine as Ocon’s replacement for F1 2025, having emerged from the team’s junior academy.

“I think the other [Sauber] seat [alongside Hulkenberg] is still available, so we still have an option [to stay],” he told reporters in Montreal.

“And of course, with Alpine I always had a very good connection in the past because that’s where really helped me to have the chance maybe before Formula 1, and then really grateful to join Sauber to have the chance.

“So now I’m open to other teams or open to discussion about my future.

“Nothing has been confirmed, but I feel like there should be a spot for me in the future on this grid, but I just don’t know where.”

Zhou also confirmed that his priority is to secure a race seat for the F1 2025 season, insisting that he is not considering a reserve role “at the moment.”

He explained: “I don’t want to be the reserve, I don’t want to take a year off.

“I don’t think at this kind of age of my career, I don’t really want to take a year off because in Formula 1, when you take a year off, it’s difficult to come back.

“Just because you’re not racing, it’s such a high level and every year, the cars are changing and you need to adapt, you need to understand something different.

“So my option is, of course, try to get a seat for next year, and reserve is definitely not an option at the moment.

“If you have to then we have to see, we have to consider, but at the moment I’m not to trying to think for that way.”

Read next: 10 talented racing drivers you forgot were once Red Bull juniors