F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (2024)

Formula 1's 2025 grid is taking shape with seats being filled by the week, but there are still several significant unknowns heading into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

The latest dominos to fall, ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, were Red Bull choosing to stick with Sergio Perez by giving the Mexican a new deal, before their sister squad RB took up an option to extend Yuki Tsunoda's contract by a further year.

As things stand, there are officially eight 2025 seats that remain unfilled, although with a few of them it would appear that we are merely waiting on official announcements.

In years gone by, F1 fans have usually had to wait until the 'silly season' that would traditionally take place during August's summer break to find out the lay of the land for the following year's grid, but much appears likely to be decided before then this time around.

As the battle on track continues to heat up, with Mercedes having joined Ferrari and McLaren in challenging Red Bull, Sky Sports F1 analyses the areas to look out for in the driver market over the coming weeks.

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The wait for Sainz goes on

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F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (1)

Ever since Lewis Hamilton ignited the 2025 driver market in February by announcing a blockbuster switch from Mercedes to Ferrari, there has been huge interest in where the driver he is replacing, Carlos Sainz, would end up.

The Spaniard was linked with replacing Hamilton at Mercedes and with a move to Red Bull, but those two premium options seem to have slipped away despite Sainz's strong form, leaving him with a pair of slightly underwhelming prospects.

The first, which has long been reported to be available to him, is a move to Sauber, who will become the Audi works team in 2026, with the German manufacturer keen to have Sainz as their lead driver.

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F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (2)

The other choice, which came to light out of nowhere during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend in May, is an offer from Williams to drive alongside Alex Albon.

Neither are well placed to give Sainz much opportunity to add to his three F1 race victories imminently, and a deal with either would surely include clauses that allow Sainz to move on if the opportunity to return to a contender comes up.

For example, despite having signed multi-year deals, Hamilton and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso are undoubtedly in the closing stages of their careers, while Max Verstappen leaving Red Bull could create an opportunity with the Milton Keynes squad.

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F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (3)

Sainz's standing as the best free agent driver remaining means that both Sauber and Williams appear to be willing to wait for a final decision from the 29-year-old before moving on to their backup choices.

One driver watching Sainz's situation particularly closely will be Sauber incumbent Valtteri Bottas, whose only hopes of staying in F1 seems to be with either his current team or Williams.

Mercedes leaning towards Antonelli

The reason Sainz appears to be out of the running at Mercedes is the prodigious talent of teenager Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff explained in Canada: "We've embarked on a route now to say, 'You know what, we want to reinvent ourselves a little bit, going forward.' Kimi Antonelli definitely plays a part in that.

"We haven't taken a decision yet for next year, but we didn't want to have Carlos wait as well, because he needs to take the decisions for himself - that's just fair. But he's doing a super job."

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F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (4)

The Italian doesn't turn 18 until August and has made only a modest impact during his debut Formula 2 campaign, but Mercedes appear to be convinced that his talent merits a fast-tracking to F1.

Mercedes say that Antonelli has impressed during the recent test days he has done in old F1 machinery, but would surely like to see the hot prospect convert his speed into some F2 victories during the remaining nine rounds of the feeder series, starting in Spain this weekend live on Sky Sports F1.

Given that Mercedes appear to have shunned Sainz, and other potential candidates are being signed up elsewhere, it's hard to see them going for anyone other than Antonelli alongside George Russell next year.

The other thing to look out for regarding Antonelli is whether he could get some early F1 exposure before the end of this season, with the FIA having recently modified their rules to allow 17-year-olds to participate.

While that could be a complete coincidence, some suspect that manoeuvring has been going on with a view to Antonelli replacing the struggling Logan Sargeant at Williams before the season is out.

Are Alpine, Haas 2025 seats actually vacant?

On paper, Alpine and Haas are the only two teams left with neither of their 2025 drivers confirmed, but their realities are quite different.

Alpine and Esteban Ocon have mutually agreed to the French driver departing when his contract expires at the end of the season, while his team-mate Pierre Gasly appears to be hoping a better option materialises than staying with the dysfunctional Enstone squad.

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F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (5)

With a lack of alternatives for Gasly, perhaps other than Sauber/Audi if Sainz chooses Williams, he may end up staying with Alpine, but their line-up for 2025 is very much up in the air.

Alpine academy driver Jack Doohan looks well placed to finally get his chance in F1 having now featured in free practice sessions for three successive seasons.

As for Haas, the word in the paddock is that their 2025 line-up is as good as set, with Ocon expected to join them having not shown enough to convince Mercedes he was worthy of an opportunity there.

Haas boss Ayao Komatsu has hinted that he wants a mix of experience and youth, with the latter set to be provided by British teenager Oliver Bearman.

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F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (6)

Having impressed on his F1 debut when stepping into Carlos Sainz's Ferrari at short notice in Saudi Arabia, the 19-year-old is making the second of six scheduled practice appearances for Haas this season.

The team's announcement earlier in the year that Bearman would feature in six practice sessions hinted that he was on course for a permanent seat, and it would appear to be a question of when, not if, he is signed for 2025.

With Nico Hulkenberg having already agreed to join Sauber/Audi from Haas next year, the odd driver out in this scenario would be Kevin Magnussen, whose F1 future is in serious doubt.

How settled is the Red Bull picture?

The other seat still up for grabs is the one alongside Tsunoda at RB, which is currently held by Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian's early season form, which saw him completely outclassed by his team-mate, led to speculation over whether Ricciardo would make it to the end of the campaign, let alone be retained for next year.

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F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (7)

However, the eight-time race winner has shown recent signs of life, most notably at the Canadian Grand Prix where he produced his best qualifying and race results of the season, starting from fifth and finishing eighth.

With Red Bull junior Liam Lawson patiently waiting for an F1 opportunity, Ricciardo is going to have to at least match Tsunoda for the rest of the season if he is to

At the senior team, it didn't take Christian Horner long to take some of the gloss off what was initially announced as a two-year extension for Perez as the Red Bull boss revealed in Canada that it was a 'one-plus-one' deal.

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F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (8)

Tsunoda and Ricciardo will continue to monitor Perez's performances closely, with there being little doubt that the Mexican must improve his form if he is to get the chance to start, let alone finish, his newly inked contract.

Perez has repeatedly said that he wants to end his F1 career within the Red Bull family, which one could read as an acceptance of the possibility of a demotion to RB at some point.

Sky Sports F1's live Spanish GP schedule

Thursday June 20

1.30pm: Drivers' Press Conference

Friday June 21

7.45am: F1 Academy Practice
8:50am: F3 Practice
10am: F2 Practice
12pm: Spanish GP Practice One (session starts at 12.30pm)
1.55pm: F3 Qualifying
2.50pm: F2 Qualifying
3.35pm: Spanish GP Practice Two (session starts at 4pm)
5.25pm: F1 Academy Qualifying
6.15pm: The F1 Show

F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (9)

Saturday June 22
9.35am: F3 Sprint
11:15am: Spanish Romagna GP Practice Three (session starts at 11.30am)
1.10pm: F2 Sprint
2.10pm: Spanish GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Spanish GP Qualifying
5pm: F1 Academy Race 1

Sunday June 23
7.45am: F1 Academy Race 2
9am: F3 Feature Race
10.30am: F2 Feature Race
12:30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Spanish GP build-up
2pm: The SPANISH GRAND PRIX
4pm: Chequered Flag: Spanish GP reaction

Formula 1 heads back to Europe as the championship moves on to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. Watch every session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya from June 21-23 live on Sky Sports F1. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership - No contract, cancel anytime

F1 driver market: Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' vacant seat among remaining mysteries regarding 2025 grid (2024)
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