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F1 Driver Market Heats Up: Sainz Holds the Key

Formula 1 is about to hit overdrive with five races in six weeks before the summer break. This busy stretch is expected to trigger a flurry of driver announcements for the 2025 season.

Mercedes Plays the Waiting Game

The Silver Arrows seem content to wait. Their prodigy, Andrea Kimi Antonelli, is all but confirmed for a seat next year unless something dramatic happens. However, Toto Wolff hasn't completely shut the door on Max Verstappen. The Dutchman's future with Red Bull is still undecided, and Mercedes wants to keep its options open.

Verstappen, on the other hand, is in no rush. He has a championship fight to focus on, and Red Bull remains a competitive team. His decision, likely made with Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, could come much later in the season.

Sainz: The Linchpin of the Market

While the top teams wait, Carlos Sainz is the center of attention. As Kevin Magnussen aptly described, Sainz is the "cork in the bottle." His choice between Williams and Sauber/Audi will domino through the rest of the grid.

Sainz is eager to finalize his 2025 plans. His decision will impact drivers vying for seats at Williams, Sauber/Audi, Alpine, and Haas. Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, and Magnussen are all waiting for the dominoes to fall.

Audi's Options: Old and New

If Sainz eludes them, Audi has other options. Their current driver, Bottas, is a familiar face. They're also considering Pierre Gasly and Liam Lawson, who might be available if Red Bull promotes someone else instead of Daniel Ricciardo.

Audi's ties to Red Bull could even lead to a loan deal for Lawson, keeping him within the Red Bull family while gaining experience at Audi. Esteban Ocon, currently at Alpine, is also on their shortlist, though he's linked to a potential Haas seat alongside Oliver Bearman.

Alpine's Driver Drama Spills Over

The turmoil at Alpine is influencing the market as well. Former Alpine driver Zhou Guanyu is rumored to be interested in returning, but their junior driver, Jack Doohan, managed by Flavio Briatore (Alpine's new advisor!), might be the frontrunner.

With the summer break approaching, the next few weeks will likely see these driver sagas reach their climax. Once Sainz makes his move, expect the rest of the grid to follow suit.

TopGear Magazine July 2024