Flavio Briatore already spinning Alpine web with last-minute Carlos Sainz move

Thomas Maher
Flavio Briatore, Alpine, and Carlos Sainz senior, father of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, at the Ciruit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Flavio Briatore, Alpine, meets with Carlos Sainz senior at the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix.

Flavio Briatore has set tongues wagging after the Spanish Grand Prix, as he was spotted exchanging phone numbers with Carlos Sainz senior.

A return to Enstone might be a tempting last-minute change of heart for Carlos Sainz, with a straightforward decision between Williams or Sauber/Audi having been the believed state of play over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

Flavio Briatore and Carlos Sainz get out their phones in paddock chat

On Sunday, Carlos Sainz senior – the Ferrari driver’s father and a legend of motorsport in his own right through his ongoing rallying exploits – was spotted in conversation with Flavio Briatore in the paddock.

The pair could be seen apparently swapping phone numbers, igniting speculation that Alpine could yet emerge with Sainz’s services for 2025 as the two sides may be in negotiation.

Briatore, who has returned to F1 action with Alpine after more than a decade on the sidelines following the overturning of his lifelong ban from the sport, has been appointed as an executive advisor to Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo.

His remit will include strategic decision-making advice to de Meo, including offering his expertise on the driver market.

Alpine has at least one race seat available for 2025, with Esteban Ocon confirmed as leaving the squad for pastures new, while Pierre Gasly is likely to be retained – although this is not yet confirmed.

Sainz revealed last week that he’s had contract offers from every team with a free cockpit for next year, with the Spaniard the hottest prospect on the driver market following Ferrari’s decision to sign Lewis Hamilton in his place.

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With the leading candidates for Sainz’s signature being Williams and Sauber/Audi, the rapid improvement of the Enstone-based squad in recent races – together with Briatore’s signing as de Meo attempts to lead Alpine forward – could have made the team a very attractive prospect to Sainz as he closes in on making a decision.

With Alpine no longer strangers to scoring points, having scored ninth and 10th in Spain, neither Williams nor Sauber/Audi scored – Williams has two points from Alex Albon’s ninth in Monaco, while Sauber is yet to score a point at all this season.

Briatore’s appointment is certain to see the Alpine team take decisive actions, with the Italian well-known for making deals happen during his previous tenure in the sport.

Winning a legal battle to secure Michael Schumacher’s services in 1991, Briatore reaped the benefits of that a few years later as the German won two drivers’ championships in 1994 and ’95, while he ruthlessly dropped Jarno Trulli during the 2004 season when he felt the Italian was no longer performing to standard.

As for Sainz himself, he is eager to make a decision on his future as quickly as possible.

“The latest is that a decision will be taken very soon,” Sainz told media, including PlanetF1.com, at the Spanish Grand Prix press conference on Thursday.

“I don’t want to wait any longer. I think it’s getting to a point where it’s taking space out of my head for some weeks and months now. It’s time to make a decision and that decision will be taken soon.”

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