Ex-F1 driver Martin Brundle believes McLaren could lose Carlos Sainz to Ferrari for next season if they look to replace Sebastian Vettel.
Sainz established himself as the clear strongest driver outside of the top three teams last season, claiming P6 in the Drivers’ Championship with 96 points, including scoring his first podium with P3 in Brazil.
McLaren moved quick to extend Sainz’s deal in 2019 after signing him from Renault, but his contract will be up for renewal again after 2020.
And if McLaren aren’t quick, then Brundle agrees with the suggestion that Sainz could be a candidate to replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari with the four-time World Champion’s contract also winding down.
Asked by the Daily Express if McLaren should fear an approach from Ferrari for Sainz, Brundle said: “Yeah, if he’s out of contract. I’ve always championed Carlos, and to McLaren when they weren’t sure about taking him.
“I think he’s got his dad’s kind of sporting winning mentality — a double World Rally Champion of course, his dad.”
Max Verstappen, who partnered Sainz at Toro Rosso before earning his promotion to Red Bull, is widely regarded as a future World Champion.
But Brundle believes Sainz is on Verstappen’s level, looking back to their days together at the Red Bull junior team and describing how things got “political”.
“I think Sainz was very close [in performance] to [Max] Verstappen when they were at Toro Rosso. It got political,” he said.
“It got dad and lad against each other from both sides of the garage and they went with Verstappen, which I think you would do all day long.
“But I think Carlos was a really good match for him.”
Ferrari say that continuing with Vettel is their preferred choice, while Daniel Ricciardo, who is out of contract after 2020, is also an option.