Ferrari could almost have the pick of the grid, but after the Vettel news, it very quickly emerged that there were two drivers it was realistically looking at – Sainz, and Daniel Ricciardo (with Antonio Giovanazzi being a surprise outside bet).
Sainz was the number one choice and he’ll now join the Scuderia on a two-year deal following the end of a two-year McLaren stint, with Ricciardo replacing the Spaniard in orange. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said:
“With five seasons already behind him, Carlos has proved to be very talented and has shown that he has the technical ability and the right attributes to make him an ideal fit with our family.
“We’ve embarked on a new cycle with the aim of getting back to the top in Formula 1. It will be a long journey, not without its difficulties, especially given the current financial and regulatory situation, which is undergoing a sudden change and will require this challenge to be tackled in a different way to the recent past.
“We believe that a driver pairing with the talent and personality of Charles and Carlos, the youngest in the past fifty years of the Scuderia, will be the best possible combination to help us reach the goals we have set ourselves.”
It marks the culmination of an impressive and unusual rise through the ranks for Sainz. Red Bull junior drivers don’t often survive in F1 for long if they don’t make it through to the main team after their Toro Rosso stint, yet Sainz has managed to break out of that system and build a reputation for himself in other midfield teams, first with Renault, then with McLaren.
Were it not for Max Verstappen, it’s likely that Sainz would have already had a Red Bull seat by now, so to see him emerge at Ferrari seems like the right move for a driver who has clearly always been extremely talented. How he’ll stack up against Charles Leclerc is going to be one of the biggest storylines of 2021.