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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Door closing for Sainz at Williams as it reopens talk with other F1 drivers

Carlos Sainz’s hesitation in deciding his F1 future has prompted team to renew pursuit of other drivers

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari

Carlos Sainz’s Formula 1 options for 2025 could be narrowing, with teams that have been holding on for him to make a call on his future now assessing other routes.

The Spaniard has been weighing up for weeks clear offers he has from both the Sauber/Audi team and Williams for next season.

But as the Ferrari driver appeared to be on the verge of making a final decision around the time of the Spanish Grand Prix, his situation became more complicated as Alpine ramped up efforts it has been making to get him on board.

That comes in the wake of the arrival of former F1 team boss Flavio Briatore as an advisor to Renault CEO Luca de Meo, with him clear that Alpine should get on the front foot with its driver signings for the next couple of years so it can concentrate fully on its car.

The situation prompted a pause in Sainz deciding what he wants to do, and it is understood that he asked for a further delay from Williams in making a call on his 2025 plans so he could weigh up what Alpine could offer.

The French manufacturer’s offer is especially intriguing as it looks increasingly likely it will abandon its works engine programme and instead switch to a customer deal for 2026.

While the rules would guarantee Alpine an engine supply, with Honda having a duty to provide customer power units if required, it is understood that Briatore has set his sights on securing a deal with Mercedes - although nothing is decided on that front yet.

Alex Albon, Williams FW46, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Alex Albon, Williams FW46, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The prospect for Sainz of driving for a manufacturer outfit with potentially a super-competitive engine like Mercedes is something that has its attractions, which is why Sainz has further delayed making a call on the offers he has at Williams and Audi.

But the latest indecision, with no guarantee about what Sainz will do, is understood to have left both teams feeling that they cannot afford to wait much longer before pursuing other options so they do not end up left high and dry.

While Sauber/Audi is willing to hold fire for a little bit longer, it is understood that Williams has decided that it needs to get a team-mate for Alex Albon sorted as soon as possible – so it has re-opened negotiations with others.

The team wants a race winner on board for next season, with it understood that its prime targets are Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon.

Both drivers are well known to Williams team principal James Vowles through working together at Mercedes, and preliminary discussions that were taking place earlier in the year before the Sainz possibility emerged have now got rolling again.

It is understood that critical to Williams is having a driver who is completely committed to the project and is willing to buy into the journey the team will be on over the next few years.

That is why Sainz’s hesitation in committing, and the sudden pause triggered by the Alpine offer, has left the squad questioning whether the Spaniard is devoted enough to what it has planned.

And while the door is not completely shut for Sainz at Williams as talks with other drivers progress, the team may now need some evidence from the Spaniard that he is going there for the right reasons if it is to push things across the line.

Williams’ pursuit of Bottas and Ocon is interesting because it could also trigger a domino effect elsewhere with other teams who have been interested in either driver not wanting to risk being left behind and lose their preferred candidate - so needing to get their own deals sorted quickly too.

Haas is known to be chasing Ocon, while Audi’s preferred alternatives in case Sainz turns it down are understood to be the Frenchman and Bottas.

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

Photo by: Williams

Speaking in Austria, Ocon suggested that the perceived notion he was all set for Haas was not correct – as there were other possibilities now for him.

“There are, yes, many options but I will not comment on what priority,” said Ocon, who also made clear that he too did not want to sit back and risk being left on the sidelines like in 2018.

“We at no cost want to live that again, for sure. It's going well at the moment, there's a lot of deep discussions going on and it should be sorted soon hopefully.” 

Bottas said that he had anticipated things falling into place after the Spanish GP, with Sainz having been expected to make a call. But the situation had now changed.

“I was hoping there would be decisions made earlier this week but deadlines got pushed back again,” he said.

However, the Finn said that there was a lot of activity going on behind the scenes to finalise things for next year.

“On my days off, I've been active with my management, with different teams, including this team obviously,” he said.

“So yeah, kind of waiting for a piece to fall into a place and then it should all happen pretty quick.” 

Asked if he had made his mind up on where he wanted to go, Bottas said: “Absolutely. I've got my priority and my order, which I can't tell you. But yeah, for me, it's pretty clear what I want.”

It is understood that one consideration for Sainz is not to totally lock himself down for the long term, in case a seat at a top-line seat like Red Bull becomes available over the next couple of years.

However, there appears to be little chance of him getting a contract that leaves him a free agent for 2026.
Sauber/Audi wants a long-term commitment into its new works era, while Williams is understood to be eager to sign him down to a multi-year deal that could even run to 2028.

And while there had been talk of Alpine offering him a 1+1 that would give him freedom for 2026, sources suggest this is not the case and it is only ready to offer a firm two-year contract.

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