The revelation that Lewis Hamilton will depart Mercedes for Ferrari, which announced a new multi-year deal for Charles Leclerc only last Thursday, necessarily means there is no room for Scuderia incumbent Carlos Sainz beyond the expiration of his current 2024 Formula 1 deal.
Sainz made plain that he wanted his future to be secured before the start of the new season so he could enter with a clear head. The Spaniard – signed by ex-Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto – thought this meant agreeing revised terms with the squad’s new F1 boss Fred Vasseur.
The two-time grand prix winner has stacked up convincingly alongside Leclerc across their three years at team-mates. As such, Sainz was in a strong position to negotiate a pay rise and at least a two-year extension to take his Ferrari stay up to the new rules cycle starting in 2026.
But talks dragged on. Speaking in December, Vasseur put this down to a hectic year.
“I have to admit that the last part of the season was a big chaos for everybody,” said the Ferrari team principal.
“It was very demanding. We had meetings and we started the discussion, but we are late compared to the initial plan.”
It has since transpired that Vasseur and Ferrari president John Elkann were lining up another blockbuster option.
Vasseur celebrates Sainz’s 2024 GP win while linking arms with the Spaniard’s 2025 replacement
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Last summer, Hamilton agreed to extend his Mercedes stay by a further two years until the end of 2025. Those contract talks were also drawn out. It now appears as though that deal was actually for a fixed one-year term with an option for a further season. The Hamilton camp had included an exit clause, which seems to have been exercised amid the Ferrari approach.
That leaves Sainz as a free agent heading into 2025 when, as it stands, no fewer than 13 seats will be up for grabs. But moves to Haas, RB, Williams and Alpine – where the team-mates are all out of contract at the end of 2024 – are likely to be among the less appealing options at present.
Instead, these are the possible vacancies Sainz and his manager might consider more strongly.
Hamilton’s shock switch now leaves Mercedes with a seat going spare for 2025 and beyond. This berth would allow Sainz to swap one front-running manufacturer seat for another. And, having proven that he fares soundly alongside Leclerc, Sainz will believe he can slot in and compare…