Carlos Sainz looks like being the only member of last spring’s ‘driver transfer chain’ who will get to try out a 2018 car before pre-season testing begins.
While the world waited for the 2020 season to start, delayed until July by the global health pandemic, there was at least some activity regarding driver moves for the 2021 campaign.
Ferrari set the ball rolling by telling Sebastian Vettel his contract would not be extended, which resulted in Sainz being hired as his replacement.
That meant McLaren needed a new driver and they managed to lure Daniel Ricciardo from Renault.
A few months then elapsed before Renault confirmed Fernando Alonso in Ricciardo’s old seat, while Vettel got himself fixed up at Aston Martin – in place of Sergio Perez, who has headed to Red Bull as they dislodged Alex Albon.
A distinct case of musical chairs, but opportunities for the drivers to become acquainted with previous editions of the cars they are about to drive are limited.
Alonso was able to drive the 2018 Renault in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi and also the 2020 version on a filming day in Barcelona and in the ‘young driver test’ at Yas Marina, for which he was given special dispensation to take part.
But of the Sainz/Ricciardo/Vettel triumvirate, only Sainz will get to experience the different kind of machinery on track before pre-season testing, which is currently scheduled for Barcelona from March 2-4 although the date and venue could yet change if the Australian Grand Prix is postponed.
The plan is for Sainz to drive a 2018 Ferrari at the Fiorano test track later in January as he prepares to begin the new season as Charles Leclerc’s team-mate.
“We are planning to organise something for Carlos, to make sure he can speed up somehow his integration with the team, with the engineers, with the car, with our way of working, our procedures,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, quoted by the Formula 1 website.
“Simulator will be important in that respect… but yes, we are currently trying to organise January time to run with an old car, just to make sure again he gets used to the team and our procedures and know the people.”
However, of Ricciardo’s prospects of doing something similar with McLaren, team principal Andreas Seidl said: “The rules are pretty clear of what we can do, plus we also do not have the possibility at the moment at McLaren to run an old car, which means it’s pretty straightforward.
“We only have the possibility in the single [pre-season] test with the three days, but of course we are working hard within the team at the moment, together with Daniel, to integrate him into the team as quickly as possible.”
And it is a similar story at Aston Martin for Vettel.
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer said: “We too don’t have the ability to run a two-year old car. We’ll do everything we can with Seb to get him integrated into the team, do a lot of sim work with him as well, and then use the three days of testing that we have to the best of our ability to get him ready for the first race.”