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F1 Shifts: Wolff Revises View on Sainz and Antonelli

F1 Shifts: Wolff Revises View on Sainz and Antonelli

05/07/2024

In a surprising twist, Toto Wolff admits to a change in stance on drivers Sainz and Antonelli, while Williams F1 opts for patience.

Patience and the passing of time achieve more than force or fury… Carlos Sainz has truly embraced this maxim by Jean de la Fontaine: for him, the urgency lies in waiting before making a decision for next year.

Williams F1? Audi? Alpine F1? And now, Mercedes? Carlos Sainz enjoys the luxury of choice. This is unlikely to hasten his decision-making process.

Indeed, Carlos Sainz has re-entered the race for a seat at Mercedes F1. The German team believes it needs an experienced driver next year, should it contend for the title.

However, Andrea Kimi Antonelli appears to be slightly underprepared for racing with a top team. Although not performing optimally in F2, he still achieves commendable results with a struggling Prema team. He might need a year or two of learning before becoming a main driver in one of the leading teams. A potential placement of Sainz at Mercedes and Antonelli at Williams F1 might make more sense.

Without overinterpreting the F2 results, Toto Wolff does not hide it: the 2024 F2 season does not advocate for Antonelli’s promotion to a Mercedes team that could be in contention next year…

“The season has been somewhat tricky for Kimi because, overall, in F2, the team (Prema) hasn’t performed well, and I think the team acknowledges that it wasn’t great.”

“But last weekend was quite good. The pace was there, Kimi made mistakes in his starts, and that’s something Kimi needs to learn, that’s clear.”

“He’s under a lot of pressure. There’s been a lot of talk about him. His record in junior formula and karting is unique. And he has managed to cope as the pressure mounts.”

“But as his father says, a champion must perform in cold water and must know how to swim. So, it’s very clear.”

“The driver market is currently very dynamic and interesting. Some drivers have more options, and some teams have more options. It’s interesting. And you know, it’s like Bernie [Ecclestone] used to say: last week I had one opinion, this week I have another.”

“There’s a lot going on, more than the world will see, but it will all make sense in the end.”

Thus, Toto Wolff openly admits to having changed his mind about the identity of the possible second Mercedes F1 driver next year: does Carlos Sainz now appear as the favourite over Antonelli?

Is Williams F1 prepared to wait for Carlos Sainz until September?

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz continues to delay his decision, week by week. He reiterated yesterday: he will take as long as needed.

This isn’t a great sign of enthusiasm for the project that Williams F1 offers the Spaniard.

Also, James Vowles is beginning to grow impatient. But he doesn’t have much choice either. Thus, the head of Williams F1 seems to be softening his stance while waiting for Carlos Sainz…

“He is a world-class driver, and the decision isn’t imminent; we don’t have to make it today.”

“What I’ve always said is that the timing is less important to me. What matters more is that whatever decision we make, or the driver makes, it’s about building a long-term relationship with the driver. Both drivers need to see the path we are on and want it to be part of their lives.”

“I am confident that everything will be clarified in September. It’s the usual schedule, the normal routine. In fact, we’ve just returned to a normal calendar where August is dedicated to contracts.”

Which driver for Audi?

Audi is also involved in the driver transfer market. The team would like to sign Carlos Sainz, but again, the Spaniard seems to be delaying his decision.

Moreover, Audi would like to sign a driver for the long term… and that is exactly what Valtteri Bottas, who is leaving Sauber, is looking for: a long-term contract.

However, Carlos Sainz might prefer a short-term contract (perhaps to replace Max Verstappen at Red Bull in 2026…? Everything is open).

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, the team representative of Stake, has outlined the decision to come.

“If the situation was easy for everyone, we would have closed the driver market as early as February.”

“From the drivers’ side, everyone would like to see what will happen in 2026, and the teams want to ensure their long-term stability and not change drivers.”

“We have always said that we want to start in 2025 with the pair of drivers who will make up the Audi factory team line-up in 2026. We do not want to change after one year; that is important to us.”

“We are laying on the table who we are, where we want to be, and what we are doing to achieve this goal. Of course, there is a path to be walked together.”

“We must be happy to make this journey, with ups and downs, especially in the first period, but no one should underestimate the impact that Audi will have in Formula 1 in 2026.”

Williams F1 Agrees to Bide Time for Sainz

Williams F1 Agrees to Bide Time for Sainz Williams F1 Agrees to Bide Time for Sainz

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