With Vettel leaving Ferrari, the team from Maranello has now signed Carlos Sainz Jr. on a two-year contract, starting 2021. Replacing Sainz at McLaren will be Daniel Ricciardo, who'll be making the switch from Renault.
Following Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Ferrari, the driver line-up for 2021 is now seeing a huge shake-up. Replacing the vacant seat at Ferrari from 2021 will be McLaren’s current driver, Carlos Sainz Jr., while he will be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo next year, who’s currently with Renault. There’s no news – yet – as to who will fill Ricciardo’s seat at Renault.
When the news of Vettel leaving Ferrari broke two days ago, it was wildly speculated that he will be replaced by either Sainz or Ricciardo. However, Ferrari has decided to choose the younger racer between the two, instead of going for the proven race winner Ricciardo. With Sainz and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari from next year, the team will have Ferrari’s youngest driver pairing in its recent history. However, unlike Leclerc, who has been signed until 2024, Sainz has been appointed on a two-year contract for now. That said, it’ll be very interesting to see how things pan out at Ferrari from next year, for they have two young guns in their team and both are two of the most promising young drivers on the grid. While Leclerc has already proved his worth last year with 2 race wins and 7 podium finishes with Ferrari, Sainz was the ‘best of the rest’ behind the drivers from the top three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – in 2019 as he finished sixth in the driver’s championship. Sainz was also widely praised for his impeccable consistency last year. The Spaniard also secured his maiden podium finish in Brazil in 2019.
With Sainz leaving for Ferrari, McLaren roped in Ricciardo as his replacement. The Australian had been offered a seat at McLaren back when he left Red Bull in 2018, but at that time he decided to sign for Renault as the French team was more competitive that time. However, in 2019, McLaren progressed back to the top spot among the midfield teams and finished the season in 4th position, well ahead of Renault in fifth. From 2021, McLaren will also be using Mercedes’ power unit instead of Renault's, and that’s expected to make them even more competitive. Plus, with the proposed $145m budget cap for all teams from 2021, there’s a likely possibility of McLaren going back to its winning ways. All of these reasons combined are seen as the main driving factor behind Ricciardo switching from Renault to McLaren. For McLaren, it's an equally good move, as with seven race wins and multiple podiums in his career so far, the 30-year old Australian will bring more experience to their squad. Ricciardo has signed a two-year contract with McLaren and will team up with Lando Norris, who has been retained for the third year by McLaren, in 2021.
Who’ll replace Ricciardo at Renault? Well, that’s still a mystery. It could be Vettel or they may even bring Fernando Alonso back from retirement! But these are all speculations at best. Anyway, we’ll come to know about Renault's new recruit very soon!