Why Carlos Sainz would be ‘more valuable’ for Audi F1 than Charles Leclerc

Thomas Maher
2023 Belgian Grand Prix: Ferrari's Carlos Sainz adjusts his jacket against the windy conditions at Spa-Francorchamps.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari driver, pictured at the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz would be a good fit for Audi F1 when the German marque enters, perhaps even more so than Charles Leclerc…

Audi enter Formula 1 in 2026, entering into partnership with Sauber as the Hinwil-based squad cut ties with Alfa Romeo at the conclusion of 2023.

The arrival of the prestigious marque has stirred a lot of excitement, due to their pedigree in other categories, with particular interest being in who they may pursue as their drivers for 2026.

Carlos Sainz would be a “good asset” for Audi

While both current Alfa Romeo drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu have indicated a desire to stay on for Audi’s arrival, external hires are also likely to make the shortlist as 2026 looms closer.

The Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are both likely to feature on the shortlist, but former Le Mans LMP2 winner Richard Bradley believes it’ll be the Spaniard who will be of more value to Audi than his teammate.

“[Sainz] has got a lot of experience,” Bradley told the On Track GP podcast.

“Remember, he’s been with a lot of the teams in the pitlane. He’s been with Renault, he’s been with AlphaTauri. He’s been with McLaren. So he has got a lot of experience.

“The Audi links do make a lot of sense. And he’d be a good asset there.

“I don’t think it’s all down, it’s definitely not down to the drivers why Ferrari aren’t performing. Ferrari are infamously bad re strategy, and they’re just not at the level they should be at, but an experienced team coming in – he’d be a very, very good asset.

“Because he’s driven with so many teams, he’s seen so many different philosophies and how so many different teams work.

“From that side of it, he is actually very, very valuable. Rather than someone like Charles Leclerc, who’s only been at Alfa Romeo, which is going to become Audi, and Ferrari. Carlos has got a lot more visibility on how different philosophies and structures work.”

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Richard Bradley highlights connection to Andreas Seidl

Another key factor in the potential for an Audi/Sainz link-up is the fact that the Spaniard worked closely with Sauber CEO Andreas Seidl when the German was the team principal of McLaren during Sainz’s tenure.

“Sainz has driven for so many teams up and down that pit lane already, so he’s worked with a lot of people,” he said.

“A key thing is Andreas Seidl, who was at McLaren when Carlos was there has now become the [CEO of Sauber].

“Knowing someone like that, Andreas has a very, very good reputation. I know him from sports cars, because he was the team principal of Porsche when they were in the World Endurance Championship before he went to McLaren. He’s very, very highly respected. That could be an interesting link.

“The fact that Audi have cancelled their Formula E programmes, their GT programmes, purely to put all this effort into Formula 1, I don’t think that’s actually that bad a move for Carlos.”

Bradley also suggested that there’s the possibility of Audi choosing to bring in an F1 rookie from their own roster of drivers, particularly as Audi start shedding factory drivers as they exit other racing categories.

“The other thing is Audi have some very, very serious drivers on their books and have done for a couple of years,” Bradley said.

“So it wouldn’t surprise me to see potentially them bringing in a rookie from their books into Formula 1, if they do go for someone as experienced as Sainz.

“There’s been a big exodus of Audi drivers since they pulled out, they’ve got to let go of 14 of their professional drivers at the end of the year. I think you’ll see Carlos become a de facto team leader in that situation.”

Read More: Carlos Sainz’s ‘Plan A, B and C’…and none of them involve Audi F1