We didn’t have to wait too long to discover McLaren’s replacement plan for Fernando Alonso—they found another quick Spaniard to fill his shoes for 2019 in the form of Carlos Sainz.
McLaren announced a multi-year deal with Sainz which surprises me if I’m honest. A couple of thoughts on the Sainz appointment have me wondering:
If you would have asked me at the end of last year about a multi-year deal committed to Sainz, I would say that’s a great idea, but after half a season of being more than covered by his teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, I am sure he’s a good driver to sign but not a direct replacement for the kind of results they were getting from Alonso.
I think a lot of Carlos and he’s certainly a terrific driver and perhaps much of his appointment also has to do with the teammate choice the team have. The press release says absolutely nothing about Vandoorne and in F1, they usually do say something like, “Sainz will join Stoffel Vandoorne in 2019 to lead the team further up the grid” etc. The absence of Vandoorne’s name as Carlos’s teammate in the press release suggests they haven’t done a deal with the Belgian and may not.
If this is the case, and it is a big “IF”, then perhaps Carlos will team with Lando Norris and as a rookie, he’ll benefit from racing alongside Carlos. Even though Carlos is only 23, this will be his 5th season in F1 so he has all the right experience and youth for a team to get behind in a long-term fashion—that is as long as he delivers.
Why a long-term deal with Carlos? One would presume that Sainz is leaving his Red Bull association with this deal if it is a long-term deal. This means that he’s left the nest and as such, he would want the security of a multi-year deal. I assume that means two years at the least. If is it two years, that positions the team for big changes in 2021 when the regulations change.
Carlos has the Renault power unit and drivability concept down so that’s a big bonus and Renault know him very well. It all plays into McLaren’s Renault-powered ecosystem for sure. Carlos can be super quick but the question might be his ability to be the team leader at McLaren.
Regardless, there is another angle to look at this appointment too; what other options did McLaren have? Sergio Perez possibly? Lando Norris and Vandoorne? Some have suggested Esteban Ocon but I have to think his ties with Mercedes might make that a less likely option. Pierre Gasly will want to remain at Red Bull for Daniel Ricciardo’s seat.
Given the driver market, existing contracts and material constraints all teams have, Carlos may have been the logical choice but time will tell because if he rises to the occasion as the team leader, he may also be the perfect choice.
McLaren Press Release:
McLaren Racing today confirms that Carlos Sainz will race for the team in Formula 1 from the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Carlos, 23, from Madrid, Spain, has signed a multi-year deal with the team, replacing Fernando Alonso. Carlos will enter his fifth season of Formula 1 when he joins the team as a McLaren driver in 2019. He currently sits 11th in the drivers’ championship standings with 30 points.
Part of a legendary racing dynasty, in his early racing career Carlos won the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC championship and came runner-up in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, both in 2011. He made his debut in Formula 1 at the start of the 2015 season as reigning Formula Renault 3.5 series champion, with seven poles and seven wins.
Zak Brown, Chief Executive Officer, McLaren Racing, commented:
“We’re incredibly excited to have Carlos join us as a McLaren driver. We’ve been assessing him for some time now and rate him very highly among the next generation of young talent emerging through the ranks in Formula 1.
“Carlos brings with him the perfect blend of youth and experience. Although he’s just 23, he’ll be starting his fifth season in the sport with us and will bring with him a huge amount of racing experience, both in Formula 1 and with our partner Renault.
“It’s no secret that Carlos is a huge admirer of Fernando’s, and it’s fitting that he will be stepping into his seat as a Spaniard with a legendary name in motorsport. We think he’ll be a great fit for McLaren and we’re really excited to have him join us from next season and beyond.”
Carlos Sainz commented:
“I’m delighted to finally be able to confirm that I’ll be a McLaren driver from the 2019 season. It’s something I’ve been looking at for a while and I’m very excited about this next chapter in my career.
“I’ve been a McLaren fan for as long as I can remember. It’s a great name in the sport with an incredible heritage, and the list of drivers that have raced for McLaren over the years are among the heroes of Formula 1.
“Fernando is of course one of them, so it’s particularly special that I’ll be taking his seat as part of the next generation of Spanish racing drivers behind the wheel of a McLaren.
“Finally, I’d like to thank everyone at McLaren for giving me this opportunity to fulfil a childhood dream. The team has a long-term plan for the future and I’m very much looking forward to playing a key role in its journey back to success.”
McLaren will communicate its full driver line-up for the 2019 season in due course.