Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: Carlos Sainz to Williams, Perchance to Dream

Heading into this weekend’s race in Monaco, one of the lead storylines has been the flirtations between Carlos Sainz and the Williams Racing team. Cast off by Ferrari after the team signed Lewis Hamilton for 2025, Sainz is in both a challenging and enviable position in this year’s driver market. When compared to others on the hot seat or who have yet to be confirmed for next season, Sainz stands out as the most attractive, accomplished option.

Many pundits have pushed the notion the 29-year-old Spaniard is likely to move to Red Bull, supplanting Sergio Perez. There is some logic to that idea. Sainz spent the first seven years of his Formula 1 career tied with Red Bull, first with the sister Red Bull team, then Toro Rosso, then with engine provider and works team Renault. For some people, these past connections indicate a safe landing spot at Red Bull.

That kind of link, however, seems tenuous at best, especially considering that during the last six years, Sainz drove for only McLaren (two seasons) and Ferrari (the last four). If Red Bull wanted Sainz, they could have jumped at the chance in 2020, but no return to the team materialized. The adage that you can never go home again is looking like the more realistic perspective in his career, throwing in the fact Red Bull has intimated they cannot afford the three-time Grand Prix winner.

Of course, no one believes the rhetoric Red Bull does not have the money to sign Perez. Such a line looks more like semantical bloviation than a legitimate reason. Kick Sauber is said to have made Sainz a substantial offer and one that would set the team up with a solid driver when Audi begins exerting their influence. Sainz let that offer expire, continuing to hold out hope for a better seat.

Yet the latest offer that is circulating in the rumor mill is even more peculiar than Sauber, and perhaps more enticing. As reported by RACER, Williams going after Sainz to pair him with the recently re-signed Alex Albon is a bold move – and a brilliant play.

First, let’s recognize Williams has improved but is still far removed from competing at the front of the field. Since being bought by Dorilton Capitol in 2020, the team has shown some improvement but has yet to make any substantial jumps forward. Dorilton has infused the team with better funding but has still not invested seriously enough into the program to make it anything other than a questionable investment for the company.

But team principal James Vowles has acknowledged the challenges and is looking to bolster what had become a joke of a team after being such a prominent force in previous decades racing Formula 1.

That is what makes Sainz going to Williams such an intriguing proposition. If Dorilton is willing to spend the money, it could be set up to enjoy a boon when new regulations on these F1 cars come into effect in 2026.  Sporting two cast-off Red Bull drivers with a proverbial “chip on their shoulder” backed by solid financing and a new car design, the team might resemble the impressive outfit it once was.

Then, there is the X factor. Williams has been able to milk the Mercedes engine for excellent straight-line speed, but they have yet to find the handling capacity required to utilize the power unit further. Of course, Williams is not alone in struggling to figure out how to get the current iteration of cars to handle well. In fact, one need look no further than the works team Mercedes and how far they have lost their way after winning seven Constructors’ Championships to recognize this issue. 

There is, however, someone who has unlocked the mystery of handling performance in the current age of F1 cars, and that person is about to become a free agent. Imagine, if possible, Williams were able to lure Sainz to Williams with the tacit acknowledgment Red Bull’s former chief design expert Adrian Newey would be joining the team. That would just add another character to the Red Bull revenge tour. 

Newey. Sainz. Albon. What a triple threat.

Should Williams be able to pull off such a coup, the team instantly bounces from the back of the grid to a potential title challenger. It won’t be for 2025 – that season will be a wash and hardly worth investing in – but for 2026. 

For any fans of Williams, such a scenario is a dream come true. And for any fans of Sainz, making this move would certainly look more rosy.  Shakeups like these come only so often and the one that comes to mind is when Ross Brawn took over the Honda team in 2009, grabbing the 2009 drivers and constructors title that year and building the foundation for what became the Mercedes juggernaut when he sold it to them in 2011.

The story looks good on the page and would make a fairytale script; the trick is getting all parties to play their part. At the moment, it may be nothing more than speculation, hope, and dreaming, but seeing Sainz at Williams seems to be more than just a silly idea at this point. 

About the author

Ava Lader headshot photo

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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