Just two days after four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel decided not to renew his contract with Scuderia Ferrari, the Italian squad confirmed Thursday morning that young Carlos Sainz will partner Charles Leclerc in 2021 and 2022 after signing a two-year deal.
The Spaniard’s move left an empty seat at the up-and-coming McLaren, of course, so the British team decided to recruit veteran racer Daniel Ricciardo to partner the charismatic youngster Lando Norris next year. As it stands, all teams and drivers involved in this speedy shuffle—with the exception of Vettel—have confirmed their 2021 plans.
“I am very happy that I will be driving for Scuderia Ferrari in 2021 and I’m excited about my future with the team,” Sainz told Formula 1. “I still have an important year ahead with McLaren Racing and I’m really looking forward to going racing again with them this season.”
At 25 years of age, the second-generation racer and 22-year-old Leclerc will form the youngest driver line-up in Formula 1, giving us a peek of just how desperate Ferrari is to get back to its winning ways from the 2000s. Furthermore, this will mark the first time in nearly 14 years that Ferrari won’t have a world champion acting as a senior driver in its lineup. As they say, radical times call for radical measures.
“We’ve embarked on a new cycle with the aim of getting back to the top in Formula 1,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto told 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 50 years of the Scuderia, will be the best possible combination to help us reach the goals we have set ourselves,” added Binotto.
While Ferrari will want to revamp its entire operation to offer its young drivers all the support they need, it will be a much different story at McLaren, where the Papaya Orange team will undoubtedly task Ricciardo with bringing in a wealth of experience and leadership as early as pre-season testing.
“Signing Daniel is another step forward in our long-term plan and will bring an exciting new dimension to the team, alongside Lando. This is good news for our team, partners and of course our fans,” McLaren team principal Zak Brown told Formula 1.
McLaren has managed to claw its way to the upper-mid-field over the last two seasons, after enduring embarrassing years with Honda engines, and most notably, Fernando Alonso at the wheel. It’s safe to say that this will be a prime opportunity for Ricciardo to show what he’s made of, and hopefully carve more opportunities to do “shoeys” from the top step of the podium.
Before any of the above can take place, however, the 2020 season must come to an end—and for that to happen, it must first come to a start, and for that to happen the world has to flatten the COVID-19 curve. In other words, we’re still a long way from seeing Sainz in red and Ricciardo in orange.
But what about Vettel?