Daniel Ricciardo’s Ferrari dream is over, according to an Italian report which claims the iconic Formula 1 team will announce Sebastian Vettel’s replacement in the next 48 hours.
The stunning report has identified Spanish driver Carlos Sainz as the man to step into Vettel’s giant shoes after the former world champion announced 2020 will be his final year with Scuderia Ferrari.
Ferrari’s immediate decision to give Sainz the best chance of his career to chase a world championship comes after a frantic day of speculation that had the entire Formula 1 grid looking at a wild shake-up.
Sainz’ expected move to Ferrari is set to trigger that exact chaos, according to commentators, who believe the game of musical chairs is already being played.
The report from Italy’s motorsport.com claims Sainz will be announced as Charles Leclerc’s teammate for the 2021 season in the next few days, opening up a scenario which would see Ricciardo move to McLaren to replace Sainz.
Ricciardo, 30, has won seven Grand Prixs during his F1 career, while 25-year-old Sainz is yet to win a single race.
Sebastian Vettel could even be tempted by the chance to replace Ricciardo at Renault, with reports both Renault and McLaren reached out to the German champion to cover for the potential loss of Ricciardo or Sainz.
The British press is also reporting Lewis Hamilton may still be tempted by the challenge of joining Ferrari, but the latest reports from Italy suggest Hamilton’s flirtations may simply be about gaining leverage in his ongoing contract talks with Mercedes.
Motorsport.com’s Franco Nugnes wrote on Tuesday night (AEST) that Ferrari sees Sainz as a better option than Ricciardo because the team believes he would be a better partner for Leclerc.
The report also indicated Ferrari’s decision was influenced by Sainz’s reportedly cheaper price tag than the other driver options, including Ricciardo.
“The Spaniard will be made official within the next 48 hours,” Nugnes reported.
“The basic agreement has already been reached, while some minor passages remain to be defined. Carlos will land in Maranello because he is considered Leclerc’s ideal companion and because he is also cheap.”
The report suggests Sainz’s decision will anger McLaren because the team had been in the middle of negotiations surrounding a two-year contract extension.
It leaves Ricciardo chasing the best of the rest again with the Aussie out of contract with Renault at the end of 2020.
Formula 1 guru Martin Brundle on Wednesday suggested he believes Ricciardo will end up at McLaren.
“I see a scenario which is Sainz to Ferrari, Ricciardo to McLaren, and then that leaves a seat at Renault that probably would be (Fernando) Alonso,” Brundle told Skysports.com
“I think (Ferrari) are more likely to go for Sainz.
“This is a really strange time in that driver contracts are coming to their end and teams are having to make decisions based on the future with no current season as an indicator. They’re working blind at the moment.”
Ricciardo’s former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen also suggested Ricciardo would be overlooked by Ferrari.
“I think it’s not going to be the Italian sounding name,” Verstappen said as he dismissed any suggestion he could join Ferrari.
“Let’s see. At the end of the day, it’s just a guess. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Vettel said in his announcement that there was no longer a “common desire” to work together with Ferrari, who have not announced a replacement for the four-time world champion.
It has been widely reported that after being outpaced by 22-year-old teammate Charles Leclerc in 2019, Ferrari had offered Vettel only a one-year contract extension at a significantly reduced salary.
Last year Vettel was time and again put in the shade by Leclerc, the prodigious talent who is 10 years his junior and entering his second season with Ferrari.
The driver from Monaco claimed seven poles in his maiden season at Maranello, winning twice including an emotional triumph at Monza.
— with AFP