McLaren F1 Team Confirms Carlos Sainz for 2019 and Beyond
McLaren trades one Spaniard for another.
On Thursday, McLaren confirmed rumors that it had signed Carlos Sainz Jr. for the 2019 Formula 1 season as a replacement for retiring Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard's wishes for a two-year deal will be fulfilled by the contract, which McLaren describes as a "multi-year deal."
"Carlos brings with him the perfect blend of youth and experience," stated McLaren CEO Zak Brown in the team's announcement. "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."
By signing with McLaren, Sainz precludes himself from promotion to Red Bull Racing, where he was previously thought to be a candidate alongside Pierre Gasly. Without significant intra-organizational competition, Gasly now looks to be the favorite for the second Red Bull seat. This deal also removes Sainz from the radar of Haas, another team to which he was linked.
Remaining is the question of who may partner Sainz at McLaren in 2019. Stoffel Vandoorne's sub-par performance alongside Alonso puts his drive in jeopardy, with strong competition in the forms of Formula 2 driver Lando Norris and Mercedes prospect Esteban Ocon, according to Motorsport Italy. McLaren will not need to take action to secure the widely-desired Norris should he not win the Formula 2 championship (winners cannot repeat the series), and could choose between Ocon and retaining Vandoorne. One alternative is allowing Vandoorne to migrate to Toro Rosso-Honda, filling a gap in the Red Bull talent pipeline.
McLaren has no need to make commitments just yet, so the 2018 Formula 1 season may wave adieu before we find out who will be Sainz's teammate in 2019.