Carlos Sainz willing to upset Ferrari to take control of F1 future

The Spaniard has responded in the best way to losing his seat, with only one focus on his mind for the 2024 season.


Some four races into the Formula 1 2024 season and there have been few surprises on track, with Red Bull dominating with three 1-2 finishes and Mercedes struggling to get their car working. But the transformation of Carlos Sainz is becoming increasingly evident with every race.

To be clear, there is no question Max Verstappen is the quickest driver in the fastest car, while his team-mate Sergio Perez is making a better habit of slotting in behind him in second. But not even the Red Bull pair can claim to have a 100 percent podium finish record this season. Sainz can, though.

He came home in third in Bahrain before appendicitis forced him to miss the Saudi Arabian GP after he had surgery. Two weeks later, the Spanish driver was on the top of the podium in Australia and at the Japanese GP in Suzuka, he sealed his third podium of the year.

The buzz about Sainz had carried over from his third win for Ferrari in Australia, where he grimaced with pain underneath the visor before taking the checkered flag in one of F1’s greatest victories in modern times. Yet he was almost offended by how much people were suddenly talking about him being good enough for Mercedes or Red Bull, when he has a decade’s worth of experience in the sport.

Carlos Sainz admires the Sir Jack Brabham Trophy after taking victory in the 2024 Australian GP | Xavi Bonilla/DPPI / Scuderia Ferrari

“The race in Australia can help confirm what they already knew about me, because I have been in Formula 1 for 10 years and everyone knows more or less what I am capable of doing,” Sainz told Spanish outlet AS in Japan, disagreeing with the notion that the talks only came after his win.

“Obviously, I’m not going to deny the fact that if I have good results, I hope to prove to everyone and to myself that I am a winning driver; and that with a winning car I am a force to be reckoned with. But I’m not trying to prove it specifically for Ferrari or the other teams. I go out to win and also to show that when I have a car capable of fighting for a podium or a victory, I am the one who gets that podium or that victory.”

Given that he is the only driver who has denied Red Bull victory over the past 26 races, it was about time Sainz gained recognition. Sure enough, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff both praised his performance Down Under and indicated he would be in with a shout of earning a drive with Red Bull and Mercedes respectively.

An emerging threat

Far from resting on his laurels in Suzuka, Sainz wanted to chase that podium feeling again to prove he was no one-trick pony. That would prove difficult with Lando Norris in front of him, especially considering the speed of the McLaren in qualifying on Saturday, and a red flag restart only complicated matters for Ferrari as they split strategies for their drivers.

But the way he sailed past team-mate Charles Leclerc down the straight to grab P3, without even a hint of hesitation, shows just how far he has come. Maybe six months ago in Japan, he would have radioed into the team and waited for his polite request to be allowed past to be denied. Now, he takes decisive action with the knowledge that he is fighting for his future, with teams closely watching his progress.

His comments about possessing a car capable of winning suggests he may be veering more towards a return to Red Bull than heading to Mercedes. Of course, neither destination can be ruled in or out while talks are still happening, as the 29-year-old revealed he will be “moving forward” in the “next few weeks”.

Carlos Sainz during 2024 Japanese GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office
Carlos Sainz during 2024 Japanese GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

“The ideal [scenario] would be to have a winning car next year. We will see with the opportunities that may be presented to me, but we must also remember that in 2026 everything changes again… I am not only looking at 2025,” Sainz added.

The transformation from a second driver unwilling to disturb the peace to consistently delivering podiums has taken Sainz to another level in his career. His performances have been so impressive that some figures at Ferrari will be questioning whether they have committed a monumental error. That’s not for him to dwell on, though, as he finalises his next move.

Even if he was upset about being dumped by Ferrari for Lewis Hamilton, he might look back on it differently as the greatest thing that could’ve happened to him if it means landing a drive at Red Bull. In their machinery, he could be the one they fear the most.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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