The McLaren F1 Team‘s CEO, Zak Brown, says that Carlos Sainz Jr. is being considered as a driver option for 2019, should he fail to earn a promotion to Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
The Spaniard, currently on loan from Red Bull to the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, is one of the candidates to replace the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo at the end of the year, following the Australian’s shock decision to move to Sainz Jr.’s current employers.
However, with relationships strained between the Sainz and Verstappen camps, Pierre Gasly looks to be the most likely suitor to partner Max Verstappen next year after a string of impressive performances at Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda.
McLaren are yet to confirm any drivers for 2019, meaning that Sainz Jr. may still have a lifeline in Formula 1. The 23-year-old’s idol, Fernando Alonso, is still deliberating on his plans – with his interests seemingly drifting towards the Verizon Indycar Series and the World Endurance Championship.
Additionally, Stoffel Vandoorne has endured another trying season so far and might be shifted away for next season, potentially towards the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team. But Brown insisted that the Belgian is still in the McLaren picture.
“We do have a long-term agreement in place with Stoffel and Fernando, but as you can imagine in these contracts there’s a variety of elements to them,” Brown told Motorsport.com.
“We will make our driver decision when we’re ready. I anticipate that being some time after the summer break.
“We’re still reviewing, analysing what’s ultimately the best combination for McLaren moving forward. Stoffel is very much part of that consideration set.”
Brown has expressed an interest in Sainz Jr.’s services before Ricciardo’s news broke, hailing the Spaniard as an “excellent race car driver” last weekend in Hungary.
“We think Carlos is an excellent race car driver,” Brown continued.
“Of course, he is potentially on the market, we don’t know his exact situation at Renault and Red Bull, but he’s certainly someone that as you go down the shortlist of drivers you’d consider putting in a race car.
“If he was free, and if we had a seat, he would certainly be high up on the consideration set.”
McLaren junior Lando Norris may not be thrust into the set-up so early, but could make his F1 debut next year. The FIA Formula 2 star could be loaned to Toro Rosso as a deal-sweetener for the Faenza squad’s technical director, James Key.
Norris has shown cautiousness when talking about a race seat for next year, reportedly keen for a Friday driver role at McLaren with an eye for a full-time drive in 2020. Norris’s fellow F2 driver and McLaren junior Nyck de Vries is not “under heavy consideration” for the time being.
“We think Lando is obviously a future star,” Brown added.
“We’re going through our whole driver scenario, and when you have a talent like Lando, you want to keep them in the family.”