Carlos Sainz keen to ‘speed up’ 2025 talks in Japan – but where should Ferrari driver go next?

It’s been quite a few months for Carlos Sainz. At the turn of the year, a contract extension at Ferrari seemed a formality. His win in Singapore last September – the only non-Red Bull victory since 2022 – solidified his role at the Scuderia as one half of a strong partnership with Charles Leclerc. In fact, the Spaniard was ready to take the next step and target a championship challenge in the near future.

Cue Lewis Hamilton. Cue appendicitis and a race absence in Saudi Arabia. Downed but undefeated, Sainz’s resilience and skillset came to the fore quite superbly two weeks ago as he overcame all those obstacles in Australia with a terrific victory on the streets of Melbourne, taking advantage of Max Verstappen’s retirement for his third win in F1.

And ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix on the popular Suzuka circuit, the 29-year-old admits that a spot on the grid next year is something he wants sorting as soon as possible. Frankly, he should be a man high in demand.

“I’m talking obviously to a few [teams] because that’s what my management team and myself should do when I don’t have a job for next year,” he said, on Thursday in Japan.

“It’s just a matter of obviously going more into detail and seeing the more realistic options and what are the best options for me and my future. The only thing I would say is that obviously it’s time now to speed up everything and hopefully we can get it sorted sooner rather than later.”

In contrast to this year – where the grid remained unchanged from the last race of last season for the first time in F1’s 73-year history – 2025 should see a number of alterations to the 20-driver grid. Spots have opened up, triggered by Hamilton’s shock switch to Maranello. Out of all the frontrunners, Red Bull and Aston Martin could have seats available, Mercedes definitely do. All of them will be keeping a close eye on Sainz, a strong and dependable contender in the cockpit.

Mercedes seems the most plausible option at this stage. Toto Wolff insists he would “love” to sign Max Verstappen (wouldn’t they all) but a move away from Red Bull for the Dutchman still seems unlikely at this stage, despite the inner turmoil at the world champions which has placed his future into an odd place of uncertainty.

The next cab off the rank is definitely Sainz. While Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso could opt for a move elsewhere – or he could retire from F1 for a second time – Aston Martin will be desperate to keep the two-time world champion.

Sainz, meanwhile, is desperate to keep his place right at the top of the sport. Wolff could do a lot worse than teaming George Russell up with the younger Spaniard next year – two excellent drivers keen to forge a path to race victories on a consistent basis.

Sainz could also replace Red Bull’s second driver Sergio Perez, whose contract expires at the end of the season. The Mexican boldly stated on Thursday that it is just a “matter of time” before his representatives and the team sit down to iron out a new deal. The reality could well be that the world champions want to move on from the 34-year-old, who finished second in the drivers’ championship last year but has failed to challenge Verstappen on a regular basis.

Carlos Sainz is the only non-Red Bull winner since 2022 - but is without a seat for 2025 currently (Getty Images)
Carlos Sainz is the only non-Red Bull winner since 2022 - but is without a seat for 2025 currently (Getty Images)
Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen are being linked with other teams on the grid (Getty Images)
Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen are being linked with other teams on the grid (Getty Images)

Yet Red Bull have a history of filling seats from within their own ecosystem. Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda are both targeting a 2025 drive at the mothership yet, at least on paper, Sainz represents a safer and more capable pair of hands. It should not be forgotten that Sainz started in F1 at Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso alongside Verstappen in 2015, with Helmut Marko recently calling their relationship “toxic.” Both men have matured considerably since then, though.

Sainz’s wildcard option is Sauber, who become the Audi works team in 2026. His dad, world rally champion Carlos Snr, raced to victory for Audi in the Dakar Rally in January. The German company are very serious about their F1 entry and challenging right at the very front of the grid. Sainz would represent a marquee signing, but a massive risk for the man himself.

For now though, all Sainz can do is impress in the immediacy on track. Armed with the second quickest car on the grid with Ferrari’s 2024 challenger, Sainz proved in Australia that race win opportunities could well crop up throughout the season. Though this weekend, Red Bull remain strong favourites and both Verstappen and Perez were quickest in first practice on Friday morning.

“It’s going to be a challenging track for us,” Sainz said of Suzuka. “I think that last year was one of our most challenging ones in reference to a Red Bull – we were I think seven or eight tenths off.

“So it’s time to see where we are this year and see if we can be at least closer.” Twenty-one races left in 2024; 21 auditions for Sainz to make himself an unmissable signing in the 2025 driver market.

The Japanese Grand Prix, from Suzuka, is at 6am (UK time) on Sunday 7 April. Coverage on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event from 5am