Sainz taking time over F1 future as Ferrari teammate Leclerc chases elusive Monaco podium

MONACO (AP) — With Carlos Sainz Jr. still looking for a new team for next year, his stock could rise even more with a strong performance for Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.

He does not appear short of options: Sauber, Red Bull and Williams are potential destinations when he makes way at Ferrari for seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton.

“You have the rumors and everything but don’t worry, I’m not going to let slip anything,” Sainz said at the Monaco GP on Friday. “I’m just going to put all the options on the table and take the right decision.”

Sauber has reportedly already made him a big offer and Red Bull has yet to confirm whether Sergio Perez will stay next year. Williams could potentially pair Sainz with Alex Albon, who recently signed a multiyear deal under ambitious team principal James Vowles.

Sainz is in demand and keen not to rush things.

“I haven’t made my mind up yet and I don’t know where I’m going to be racing next year. I also haven’t set any deadlines,” the Spanish driver said. “With such an important decision at this stage of my career, I want to have all the other cards on the table to take the right one.”

He turns 30 in September, so this could be the last big move.

“The next project is a project that I really want to make work. So I’m going to give myself as much time as I need,” he said. “(But) I can just tell you that, once I have made my mind up, everything will happen very quickly. It’s all about putting everything together that I feel like I need on my next new contract.”

It was somewhat surprising to F1 observers when Sainz was not retained by Ferrari, although the fact that Hamilton suddenly became available undoubtedly played a significant part.

Sainz was the only driver outside of ultra-dominant Red Bull to win a race last season, and he is one of only two drivers to deny Red Bull star Max Verstappen this year. The other was McLaren’s Lando Norris, who won the Miami GP.

This year, Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc was given a multiyear contract by Ferrari, even though he has not won a race since July 2022.


Monaco is Leclerc’s home race, and he grew up in a flat overlooking the start-finish line and watched the F1 cars whiz by.

But he has a dismal record in Monaco and has never finished on the podium, amid some unlucky circumstances.

Leclerc led from pole position in 2022 when his team wrongly called him in for a tire change on lap 22, a decision he called “a freaking disaster.”

It was even worse for Leclerc in 2021 when he pulled out before the race with a gearbox problem after taking pole.

“The finality (outcome) of the weekend hasn’t ever been the one I wanted,” Leclerc said. “I hope that this weekend will be the good one.”


Norris has been on the podium in four of the past five races and his sterling form is the talk of the paddock. Even three-time world champion Verstappen sounds impressed.

Norris is eyeing a second win of the season at resurgent McLaren, where the British driver forms a dynamic duo with Australian Oscar Piastri.

“We’re focused, we’re in good spirits. Of course, the motivation and the energy is very high,” Norris said. “If we keep it up, there’s always a chance.”

Especially as McLaren has looked good in qualifying, with Norris and Piastri both pushing Verstappen hard at last weekend’s Emilia Romagna GP. Norris drove brilliantly to finish second and within one second of Verstappen.

“We have a car that’s competitive and up there, fighting with Red Bull and Ferrari,” Norris said. “Monaco is always one (race) that every driver wants to win, just because of the history of this place, how unique and how prestigious it all is.”


Verstappen said his Red Bull was “jumping like a kangaroo” during the second practice and it gave him headaches. He was fourth quickest after placing 11th in the first practice.

Hamilton led P1 from Piastri and Leclerc topped P2 ahead of Hamilton.

A red flag came out near the end of P1 after Zhou Guanyu’s Sauber brushed a wall and debris spilled onto the track.


McLaren is racing in a bespoke one-off livery in the yellow, green and blue colors of Ayrton Senna’s race helmet, 30 years after the Brazilian’s death.

Senna was known as “The King of Monaco” after winning five straight times on the tiny street circuit with McLaren from 1989-93. He won his three world titles and 35 of his 41 races with McLaren, before joining Williams.

Last week, F1 drivers joined a memorial run around the Imola track where Senna was killed in ’94.


AP auto racing:

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