Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Losail International Circuit, 2023

Sainz was “prepared” for blow of losing Ferrari drive to Hamilton

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Carlos Sainz Jnr says he understood his Ferrari seat was at risk before the team announced it had signed Lewis Hamilton to replace him.

Hamilton informed his Mercedes team one week ago today he intended to leave at the end of this year. The news was made public the following day, and shortly afterwards Ferrari confirmed Hamilton’s planned arrival in 2025.

As Charles Leclerc recently signed a contract extension with Ferrari, the team no longer has room for Sainz, who finds himself without a drive for 2025.

Speaking at a press conference marking the launch of a new range of karts bearing his name, he said the news was not a total shock to him. “From the inside I knew and saw things before all of you, I was prepared,” he said.

Sainz, the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race last year, had been hopeful of extending his Ferrari contract into a fifth season. Despite knowing his fourth season at Ferrari will be his last, Sainz said he will continue to give his best for the team.

“Knowing that it will be the last year with a team is not the most normal thing to start a new season but as soon as I put on my helmet in Bahrain and get on the track, you can be sure that I will only think about going as fast as possible and if there is the chance to become world champion I will try to take it,” he said.

“I want to think only about this season, about doing my best for Ferrari in this championship,” he added. “I am a driver who every year has become stronger and stronger, I have not taken steps backwards but only forwards in my career and I am continuing to grow.

“This year I will turn 30 but I feel younger and more motivated than ever. I know what my value is as a driver and I know that There will be good things in the future but this year I want to do my best with Ferrari.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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48 comments on “Sainz was “prepared” for blow of losing Ferrari drive to Hamilton”

  1. Yeah, I would think they have enough feelers around them to know that something is afoot when they did not sign a new deal end of last year.

    1. The company not seriously engaging in your contract extension discussions, knowing that your team mate is extended to shortly before his retirement, might’ve been a hint as well ;)

      1. Yeah, that would surely have been the “ok, that’s it then” moment, if it did not come earlier

  2. I like Hamilton gets a chance to fulfill a dream and understand the marketing value of linking a 7 WDC driver to a brand. Bit harsh on Sainz though and sporting wise it will bring little to nothing to Ferrari. If and only if they build a championship winning car it might put Lewis in contention for a title. But then also Leclerc can win that title. It would have been better from sporting perspective to attract Newey.

    1. But from a financial perspective, Hamilton + Ferrari = money. They will sell merch like never before, they will attract sponsors, they will bring in new fans because Hamilton has a bigger following than Sainz. Even if they were even on performance, this move makes perfect sense financially.

      1. How many t-shirts and hats do you need to sell to recover a $446 milllion investment, of which perhaps $400 million is incremental over the comparable cost of Sainz?

        1. It’s a bit more nuanced than that – how many sponsors will Ferrari gain at Mercedes expense? How many technical staff at Mercedes will see this as the end of an era? How many fewer cars will Mercedes sell? It’s not just about strengthening Ferrari it’s about weakening a dominant rival – Ferrari and Hamilton are the 2 biggest brands and uniting them is a huge coup. It’s not dissimilar to Messi joining Inter Miami in terms of overall casual fan appeal.

        2. Pod, I rather doubt that those figures are realistic, given they mostly seem to be coming from dubious sources that rely on clickbait headlines.

          Furthermore, I recall that Dieter would point out that most sources would lump all sources of revenue into “salary”, when in reality the drivers might be getting different sources of income – for example, allowing drivers to earn revenue from personal sponsors. Certainly, I recall that the figures he used to quote for the salaries of the higher profile drivers tended to be quite a bit lower than most sources claimed, given Dieter usually quoted the base salary and stripped out factors such as personal sponsorship deals.

        3. Ferrari’s company value increased by 7 billion dollars the day after the annoucement.

          Do you really think Ferrari is expecting to make the money back from merchandise only lol.

          1. Exactly Edvaldo, they got that money back from just the boost to the stock price and the attention already and will get a lot more from TV time and airtime worldwide doing exactly what Ferrari are in F1 for – to build up the brand value of the company.

          2. Nunaya Dambizness
            7th February 2024, 17:41

            That is NOT why their stock price/market value shot up. It went up because just the day before, they released their annual report (Ferrari the company, not the team) which showed record profits for the year plus vehicle sales figures far in excess of what they predicted one year previous.

      2. I have quickly registered the ‘Forza Fourty-Four’ as my personal trademark. Let’s hope it pays off.

        1. I have quickly registered the ‘Forza Fourty-Four’ as my personal trademark.

          Registered in what country and under what classes?

        2. I have quickly registered the ‘Forza Fourty-Four’ as my personal trademark. Let’s hope it pays off.

          Deliberate misspelling to avoid counter claims? Or was Fortza Forty-Four already taken?

    2. Sporting wise, trading a Sainz for a Hamilton is a no brainer. Not sure what you’re on about. Even if Hamilton is at the end of his career, he’s better than Sainz in every single way. What metric does Sainz have on his side except age?

      I like Sainz, I think he’s a very good, intelligent driver. But he’s no way near Hamilton level.

      1. Sainz is quite cheaper… and historically a team with two number ones has a lot of trouble in winning drivers’ championships. (Leclerc won’t settle for this: he’ll try to prove something at every corner.)

        1. The thing is Sainz never wanted to settle as a number 2. Maybe if he had, he’d have a seat, tho it doesn’t seem to be Ferrari policy right now. But Sainz is one of those drivers with a chip on his back, not as good as the prefered in the team, yet not willing to put the team above his own interests.

          1. Sainz is much better than a number 2. I think his issue is that he’s not very spectacular and probably lacks a tiny bits of raw speed. But he’s not far from the best and he delivers.

            So while I wouldn’t put him on par with Hamilton (or Max, Alonso, Leclerc), I think he can challenge them. He could do a Rosberg, if you like.

      2. My argument is that sporting wise it is not a good move. Like I explained, they already have Leclerc, so there is no need for a Hamilton to win a championship. What they need is a better car. I agree with the other comments it does make sense politically and financially.

  3. sporting wise it will bring little to nothing to Ferrari

    Hamilton is consistently rated as a better driver than Sainz.
    We don’t know what will happen in 24 and 25, but based on the trajectory so far I don’t think this will change soon.

    1. Whilst I agree with rating Hamilton higher than Sainz (although in all fairness, Sainz never had the opportunity to drive that rocket ship Mercedes and I feel he might be able to ‘pull a Rosberg’), I still feel they rather need a better car than a better driver. Hamilton won’t compensate more than Leclerc is already doing for a the car’s lagging. And if the car isn’t lagging, but the best, Leclerc can deliver Ferrari the championship. That makes sporting wise hiring Hamilton redundant (= it will bring them little to nothing).

      1. And if the car isn’t lagging, but the best, Leclerc can deliver Ferrari the championship

        That isn’t a given by any means. LeClerc is good, no doubt, but how many races has he wrung the neck of the car and got an unbelievable result out of it? Can he cope under pressure? Putting him alongside Hamilton will give us a new perspective on his performance.

    2. And I forgot another argument/angle: Hamilton leading the team (sportive wise) to improvements/development and the like (like a Lauda or Schumacher) which eventually translates into titles… I do not see that happening either. We’ve seen Hamilton was never involved on that level at Mercedes and he has a lot of off-track interests and agenda points not related to F1 (which is good for him, since life is luckily about more than F1). Of course he could display a changed attitude towards those two elements and prove me wrong, but so far he doesn’t come across as someone that takes on this role. And also it will need Ferrari to listen.

      1. What you’re saying largely makes sense. If they’re serious about winning a world championship they need to do everything possible – get the best driver, best car… and get a compatible number two. The issue with the Lewis deal is not with Lewis, but with his team mate. Neither Sainz nor Leclerc are going to be willing to be that number two. They should get Hulkenberg, who’s a good qualifier, so should be regularly in a position to disrupt the competition off the line.

        1. I agree. Get Newey, get better strategists, get Lewis (or stick with Leclerc) and pair him with a Hulkenberg/Perez/Massa/Berger/Bottas and play the game: the nr2 blocks opponents (all within the sporting rules of course), especially on the run from the start to the first corner. Split/adapt strategies to protect your nr1. Get serious about optimising the game within the boundaries of the set rules. I don’t see smartness, no wittiness, no drive. There is too much finance, politics, pr. They need to be a racing team firstly.

  4. I think Ferrari exist in 2 dynamics – either 2 number 1s like with Massa and Raikkonen or with a dedicated number 1 like Schumacher and Barrichello. Both have their merits, Alonso may have won 2012 with a stronger team-mate, Massa may have won 2008 if he was totally backed as number 1 early in the season (unlikely but theoretically).

    The trouble is that Sainz was a halfway house. He wasn’t good enough to challenge Leclerc on pace yet he also couldn’t accept being number 2. This put Binotto in a difficult position and when Vasseur came in he supported a number 1 driver policy. With Hamilton on the market, that was clearly an ideology worth sacrificing.

    Fundamentally, unless Carlos had resigned himself to number 2, he had a very remote chance of staying given his performance level. He gambled valiantly but without the results or the long term contract he was susceptible to either Max or Lewis coming in.

    Some you win, some you lose.

    1. Sainz was very close to outscoring Leclerc in two out of three seasons. He has done about as good a job as one might expect. Even if he was sometimes a bit reluctant to play the team game, he wasn’t necessarily wrong to do so as Ferrari wasn’t in title contention.

      Much of the talk about drivers fulfilling certain roles is hard to tell from the outset; as Ferrari showed in 2007 and 2008, sometimes the circumstances require even champions to play a supporting role. And more often than not it doesn’t really matter anyway as the car isn’t good enough to challenge for a title.

    2. Massa and Kimi wasn’t an ordinary pairing. It was two #2s in one team.

      1. @kuvemar No it wasn’t. 2000s era Kimi and pre-accident Massa was clearly a two number 1s pairing

        1. Massa was not a typical #1 hire, as could be seen in 2006 when Schumacher was far superior in every regard.

          Massa and Räikkönen was much closer than people expected primarily because Räikkönen wasn’t able to reach his peak very reliably. At his best he was very good, but he wasn’t at his best very often, and so it was no surprise that he was later outclassed across the board by first Alonso and then Vettel.

  5. The only races Redbull will lose are the ones where car setup is tricky or the ones which require some intelligent strategy gamble. Sainz is better than Ham, Ferrari and certainly Leclerc in those places.
    Certainly Ham is faster, Ver is faster and Lec is faster than Sainz in racepace. But I doubt anyone of these could have pulled that Singapore DRS train strategy.
    So Sainz I believe was more suited for Ferrari. Leclerc is very fast. If Ferrari build a championship contending car, Leclerc can also win the championship. But to pick up the pieces with not so good car, Sainz is the one to do so.

    1. Whose idea do you think it was to hold back the pack on the first stint to give Carlos Sainz any chance of winning Singapore? Not Carlos.

      Carlos Sainz is a capable tactician, but so is Charles Leclerc – and in a situation where Red Bull is baked into an advantage until 2026, teamwork is essential for trying to win anything. Carlos has shown insufficient sign of being willing to do teamwork unless it gives him a clear and fairly immediate advantage. Sometimes he didn’t even recognise it in public (note that it was other people who had to explain that Carlos hadn’t come up with the whole strategy himself, only parts of it – and that’s before starting on the second stint, where Charles was further disadvantaged in a way that only makes sense if he was still seen as an inadvertent threat to Carlos’ victory despite having thrown away 11 seconds to a strategy he’d devised earlier).

      A British-based team (remember that Carlos’ previous experience has been in British- or British-minded teams) would probably have nodded along and accepted all that. Even if it did not like the style (the likes of Red Bull would probably have thought more highly of Carlos for the the approach, had he been in a Red Bull at the time), it would have fit into the British paddock’s concept of what a racing driver is like (self-orientated, a bit of a loose cannon but also a rugged, independent racer with flashes of brilliance), and not been materially counted against him. It’s also easier to live with in a title-contending car, since title-contending teams usually coalesce around one driver and having someone that decisive as the #1 is helpful.

      For Ferrari, which is more willing to run strategies that require considering both drivers’ in-race situations in more detail, this tends to make a mess of the strategy. Having to second-guess what one driver will do/want when strategising was visibly becoming more complicated for Ferrari as the season progressed. This is especially acute given that Ferrari is currently in a hard-fought battle to climb onto the F1 constructor podium, rather than the less tactically-complicated position of fighting for a title. As such, Ferrari was the one team at which Carlos’ approach wasn’t suited to remain.

      In a way*, the worst thing Carlos did for his chances of staying at Ferrari in 2023 was to win Singapore. Not due to the act itself, but how he went about it. It’s even arguable (albeit on more tenuous grounds) that the worst thing he did for his chances of staying at Ferrari in 2022 was the way the went about winning Silverstone.

      * – There were a couple of other races that spoke to other aspects of why the swapout is happening now, rather than 6 months ago or in 6 months’ time, but I think Singapore was the biggest single event that caused Ferrari to say “Actually, we do have somewhere for Lewis Hamilton to be” – bear in mind that Ferrari is rumoured to have turned down Lewis at least once before.

      1. An interesting take, but if I recall correctly Ferrari had more or less decided on a two-car strategy before qualifying in Singapore, and it just so happened that Leclerc unexpectedly didn’t deliver his normal excellence so he was left performing the rather thankless sacrificial role in the race.

  6. I was quite surprised when Ferrari signed Sainz. I would of gone for Ricciardo.
    And yes the idiosyncrasies of the then McLaren have since all but ruined his career, but at the time he was still a hot commodity and confident in his abilities. Similar driving preferences to Leclerc too. Could of panned out a whole lot differently…..

    1. Daniel was already signed to McLaren at the time Ferrari knew it had a vacancy to fill. Sliding doors…

      1. Sainz moving to Ferrari triggered the vacancy at McLaren….

  7. Sincerely wishing Sainz to finish way higher than Hamilton in 2024. What if he wins WDC?

    1. The only way that will happen is if Carlos gets a Red Bull. Though given the way the silly season is panning out, we can’t 100% rule that out either.

  8. Sainz I believe is one of those drivers that has been underrated for quite a while.

    Frankly, I’d prefer him in my team to his current team mate, but that’s probably just me.

    Hopefully Mercedes will pick him up as it’s about the only decent drive that’ll be available given I don’t see RBR taking him to replace Checo.

  9. what will be the effect on Charles? This is the biggest thing of all, I think. He’ll have to learn the intensity all race, the intensity in the garage and at HQ. He ought to be faster on a lap, with Lewis being 40, so if he can learn the WDC mentality from Lewis that could be Ferrari’s biggest gain from it.

    Plus, the team know they have the best pair of drivers now so if they deliver they can win

    1. I think this is a big point. HAM absolutely psychologically dominated ROS during their years together, except the one year ROS won and then retired because he couldn’t muster up the desire to go through that again. What HAM will we see in Ferrari? That one? Or the one who when they have a difficult car tends to languish mid-pack and complain on the radio all race?

      1. That is something I am interested in as well. This Rosberg relation and his 2021 behavior put a serious doubt over his mental strength, character and values.. for me personally that is, it is my feeling and my take out and not an objective statement. Has he moved forwards or does he need this to be able to win?

  10. If I were Mercedes I think I would go for Carlos as their second driver. I mean is Russell really of a standard to lead the team and win championships? Then if they decide he is, are they really going to get anyone else in who is of a better standard than Carlos?

    I cannot really see a strong case for anyone else in the current field. Unless they could prize Piastri away from McLaren. Otherwise it looks like they are settling not to be strong challengers for any titles from 2025. Just my opinion of course.

  11. José Lopes da Silva
    7th February 2024, 12:07

    Sometimes, I like to imagine that F1 fans long for the establishment of strong pairings at top teams. Knowing that having Senna-Prost in a top car was simultaneously exhilarating and the exception. That Hamilton-Alonso was very good, and that Hamilton-Rosberg was nice and would have been better if it was Hamilton-Alonso again. That Schumacher-Hakkinen would have been better than Schumacher-Barrichello. That Verstappen should have Alonso or Hamilton in the sister car. That the best drivers should go to the best teams.
    But then Ferrari gets Hamilton along Leclerc and I see criticism.

  12. I would love to see Carlos with the WDC this year. I think that if Red Bull drop the ball even slightly on this year’s car, he has just as good a chance as Leclerc.

    1. What I would really like is Fernando Alonso moving to Mercedes in 2025 and winning 6 straight WDCs there, wouldn’t it be fun?

  13. Well, if I was Toto I would take Carlos, he’s very good and consistent, lacking maybe in one lap pace, but excellent team player, he would surely fit like a glove in Mercedes. He has a lot of experience whilst still young, and very used to high pressure environment of the biggest teams and also used of having with strong team mates. He’s always level headed and on his day he can be always unbeatable. The other option, which I know will never happen, is for Mr.Lawrence Stroll to drop a certain underperforming driver and get Sainz to Aston. That would be a great Spanish pairing there. One can dream…

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