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via Reuters

The F1 silly season began when Lewis Hamilton signed with Ferrari, leaving Carlos Sainz without a seat for 2025 and blew the drivers’ market wide open. Max Verstappen’s rumored move away from Red Bull could provide another big shake-up and now Mercedes’ offer for Carlos Sainz has promised a further twist in this intriguing saga.

Yes, you heard it right. Carlos Sainz, who was suggested by Charles Leclerc to be in touch with many Team Principals, has now been rumored to have been offered a contract by Toto Wolff and Co. The Spaniard, after a stellar start to the 2024 season, was linked to Red Bull, Audi/Stake F1 and Mercedes. But it seems like the Silver Arrows have made the first move. 

According to @MercedesNewsUK’s tweet that quotes funoanalisitecnica.com, Mercedes has reportedly offered Carlos Sainz a 2-year (1+1) contract.

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The report states that Carlos Sainz wants at least a two-year contract with an option to extend for the third year whereas Mercedes has offered him a single-year contract with an additional year that will depend on certain conditions in the contract. It is believed that both Sainz and Mercedes want each other and are just being held back by the length of the contract. This development could be in contrast to the comments made by Toto Wolff earlier.

 

Speaking about who could replace Hamilton at Mercedes, Wolff touted the chances of Andrea Kimi Antonelli, the 17-year-old F2 driver. In his support of Antonelli, Wolff said, “We wouldn’t have supported him from go-karting until now if we didn’t believe that he has the potential to go into F1 and do so with Mercedes.”

Wolff added, “Kimi is part of the ideas for next year and is very much in the strongest position, and that’s why we don’t need to rush into any other decision.” He also discussed the possibility of some of the free agents making a move soon but was adamant about playing the waiting game. “Obviously, some of the other top drivers are going to make a decision on what to do soon, but there’s a feeling that points me in a direction not to take the decision too quickly,” he explained. So what changed?

Well, for one, Fernando Alonso, one of the names strongly linked with Mercedes, signed a new two-year deal with Aston Martin and Sainz isn’t short of offers either.

Red Bull were rumored to join the chase for Sainz, given the uncertainty around Max Verstappen. The three-time F1 world champion’s father, Jos Verstappen has had a breakdown in relations with principal Christian Horner, paving the way for a possible switch to Mercedes, who are keen to replace Hamilton. The off-track drama surrounding Red Bull hasn’t helped matters either. As such, they were touted to go after Sainz, in case, Verstappen completes a shock departure.

Audi were also linked with Sainz and interestingly his father, Carlos Sainz. Sr. drove for Audi’s Rally team in the Dakar Rally Series. Sainz Sr., has that there is a possibility of them engaging in talks with the upcoming team. But with the recent report of Mercedes and Sainz, nearly a done deal, Audi will have to wait to land a marquee name.

Carlos Sainz said at the end of last year, he would like to start the 2024 season knowing which team he will be driving for in the future. Frederic Vasseur wasn’t able to fulfill Sainz’s wish and topped it off by sacking him from the team. But if what Sainz said was true, he might want to get his contract done and dusted before the summer break so he can fully focus on driving and not worry about whether he will have a seat in 2025.

Read More: Frederic Vasseur Signed Lewis Hamilton to “Annoy” Toto Wolff, Ex-Ferrari Boss Speculates

But why has Wolff offered Sainz a contract when Max Verstappen is still rumored to be in contact? It’s even rumored that Max Verstappen was offered a higher salary than Hamilton by Wolff.

Could Toto Wolff make the move for Verstappen now or wait till 2026?

It was recently suggested that the majority of the Mercedes F1 Team want Max Verstappen as the driver to fill in the boots that Lewis Hamilton is going to leave. Toto Wolff has himself commented that he would love to have Verstappen at Mercedes. 

via Reuters

As per AMuS, Michael Schmidt reported, “Allegedly, the salary that costs Verstappen has already been approved internally. The current world champion is said to be more expensive than Lewis Hamilton, including all success bonuses.”

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The report also added that should “the triple world champion make the switch, his contract would already be ready.” But it appears the deal may not materialize, at least not for now. There are dots to be connected. Mercedes’ 1+1 deal for Sainz, means they can make a move for Verstappen, should he decide to leave in 2026. As F1 fans would know, 2026 is the year when the new regulations kick in.

Still, nothing is set in stone yet and there may yet be a few more bends before we reach the finishing line in this saga.

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What do you think? Will Carlos Sainz sign with Mercedes or is Toto Wolff going to wait out on Max Verstappen?

Written by

Pranay Bhagi

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Pranay is an F1 Content Analyst and writer at EssentiallySports who effortlessly blends his technical knowledge and passion for F1 in his writing. He has a knack for unique content research and specializes in trend-setting articles. Pranay’s coverage of the departure of Guenther Steiner from Haas received appreciation from readers.
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