Carlos Sainz Jr. Is Ready to Win, But Where Should He Go?

The talented young Spaniard's skills are for sale, but who's buying?

Peter Fox, Getty Images Sport

Not long ago, Carlos Sainz Jr.'s close allies were implicated in rumors that Max Verstappen was leaving Red Bull Racing for Scuderia Ferrari. The Spanish driver, now in his third season at Toro Rosso, is raring to go to a more competitive team, as he feels the junior team is no longer worthy of his talents. Though he is contract-bound through the end of 2019, he feels he has spent too much time at Toro Rosso, and is ready to move upward. There's a problem, though: Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are all too comfortable at Red Bull, where they stand a chance of competing for race wins in the future, once their Renault TAG Heuer engine is refined.

Sainz is not blessed with a deluge of exit options. There is no more moving upward in the Red Bull organization while Christian Horner and Dr. Helmut Marko are satisfied with their drivers, so the only way up is out. Horner understands this too, and he says that Sainz's talents can be nabbed from Toro Rosso for the right price.

The question then becomes this: who is both capable of both appealing to and affording Sainz? Red Bull isn't looking for new talent, Renault has more driver choices than it knows what to do with, and Mercedes is more or less locked into its 2018 picks of Hamilton and Bottas, so that leaves Ferrari. Kimi Räikkönen's contract expires after this year, but the current number one driver, Sebastian Vettel, wants to stay alongside him for at least one more year at the Scuderia. Sainz stands as one of the few free drivers talented enough for a seat at Ferrari, a place dear old dad would like to see his son, but that slot too has many suitors—Antonio Giovinazzi, Charles Leclerc, and Sergio Perez have been suggested as choices for Ferrari. According to one report, though, Sainz is on Ferrari's shortlist, though, so the price associated with breaking him free of his contract may not be a great obstacle.

One last choice may exist, however. If Fernando Alonso stays true to his assertion that he will ditch McLaren if Honda fails to come good by the end of the season, that would leave a prime seat open at one of Formula One's most storied teams, despite their recent troubles.

Ferrari should still be Sainz's first choice, though, so any news regarding Kimi or Seb should also be interpreted for its effects on Sainz, and the rest of the driver market.