Under-pressure driver reveals future ‘priority’ as Carlos Sainz rumours continue

Henry Valantine
Carlos Sainz and prominent logos of Mercedes and Audi

Is Carlos Sainz closer to resolving his F1 future?

Zhou Guanyu confirmed he is looking to hold onto his place at Sauber beyond the end of the year, which will become Audi from 2026, despite rumours linking Carlos Sainz to the team.

Sainz’s father, Carlos Sainz Sr, confirmed several months ago that early discussions had taken place with Audi, a brand with which his own career in rallying has been so synonymous over the years.

Zhou Guanyu determined to earn Audi drive despite Carlos Sainz rumours

The outgoing Ferrari driver has enjoyed a sterling start to the 2024 season and has been linked with a number of drives up and down the grid as a result.

But one of his considerations is staying in machinery that will provide him success from the start, and with Audi’s factory entry being two years away, Sainz has also been linked with a potential move to Mercedes or Red Bull next season.

When discussing his own approach heading into the season, Zhou has stayed in Formula 1 on a series of one-year deals so far, comparing himself to Sauber team-mate Valtteri Bottas in that regard, who did the same until the first multi-year contract of his career came with a move to the Hinwil-based team.

When it was put to Zhou that Sainz had a somewhat different approach at Ferrari after signing a multi-year deal with the team, and now has a different mindset again knowing he is without a seat for 2025, the Chinese driver acknowledged he is likely to be in demand for next season, and the amount of drivers out of contract at the end of the year means the market will be “all rumours” until things settle down.

“I think, obviously with Carlos it’s a little bit different situation like, he will have a seat, but he’s trying to find the best situation,” Zhou explained on the Beyond the Grid podcast.

“Of course, it’s not nice when you start the season already knowing that you’re not going to drive for Ferrari next year, but I think he can use this year to prove himself, which he already did in Australia.

“So for me, I have this feeling Valtteri felt in his entire probably career until he left Mercedes.

“But yeah, in a way that at some stage it’s difficult to find this balance between them because you don’t really know where exactly you will end up.

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“That’s all something you try to not think about over the season. But at some stage, you are also aware of the situation, knowing exactly you need to perform, you need to show what you can do.

“Finding the right approach into every weekend, that’s probably the biggest challenge for the drivers, especially as it is this year with so many drivers out of contract, it’s going to be all rumours going on.”

As for Zhou himself, he reiterated his commitment to his current team and wants to make sure of his future on the grid beyond the end of the year, but stated his hopes of doing so with a longer contract this time around.

“I mean, priority, of course, is I would love to be, staying here until the Audi [switchover],” he stated.

“But I think I’m looking definitely for, let’s say, hopefully a longer contract and I’m quite open to, of course, all the team.

“But at the moment I’m very committed to the season that we are facing together with Stake F1 Team, try to finish the season here high, try to prove myself, try to show the people, all the engineers that I’m continuing to grow, continuing to make further steps as a driver, and then we’ll see the rest.

“But for me, definitely, I would think what’s the best for myself together and for my future? Of course, the main objective is to continue staying in Formula 1, in this paddock, and then if you have several different options, then you can have a bit deeper look into that.”

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