Monday, July 22, 2024

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Audi won't budge on long-term F1 driver commitment

With Formula 1 racing confined to the lower tier of drivers, the conflict between drivers wanting flexibility and teams wanting long-term commitment involves the fore.

Carlos Sainz stays the blocker who blocks the complete market, with the choice between Sauber/Audi and Williams complicated by a last-minute attack by Alpine advisor Flavio Briatore. This prompted Sainz to ask for a delay, which didn’t go down particularly well with Williams.

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The Spaniard is out there with fellow F1 race winners Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas competing for the vacant seats at Audi, Williams, Alpine and Haas. Bottas' team-mate Zhou Guanyu can also be hoping Sainz's decision could open up a spot for him, although for now he looks like certainly one of the drivers on the border.

Sainz’s hesitation stems from the indisputable fact that not one of the three options seem essentially the most attractive when considering victories at Ferrari, and he also desires to retain the pliability to alter teams once it becomes clear who has met the goal within the 2026 regulations – flexibility that the majority high-profile drivers have undoubtedly built into their contracts.

But Audi, Williams and Alpine are on the lookout for loyalty and long-term commitment to enhance their teams’ fortunes. Drivers who’re prepared to work long-term are beginning to look more attractive than Sainz.

For Audi, this long-term partnership is much more necessary because the corporate knows it could not give you the chance to right away implement its factory power units when the 2026 regulations come into force, so it needs a patient approach from whoever joins Nico Hulkenberg's team.

carlos sainz scuderia ferrari

Photo: Simon Galloway / Motorsports images

“If it had been easy for everyone, we would have closed the driver market in February,” said Sauber team spokesman Alessandro Alunni Bravi.

“In terms of drivers, everyone seems to be keen to see what happens in 2026, and the teams need to ensure long-term stability and never change drivers.

“We have at all times said that we would like to start out in 2025 with the identical driver line-up because the Audi factory team. We don’t want to alter after a yr, that’s necessary to us.

“We placed on the table who we’re, where we would like to be and what we’re doing to get there. Of course, there’s a journey to take together.

“We have to be happy to be on this journey, including the ups and downs, especially in the first period, but no one should underestimate the impact Audi will have on Formula 1 in 2026.”

For someone like Bottas, who desires to secure his long-term future as soon as possible, such an agreement could help him secure a seat at Audi or elsewhere, even when he shouldn’t be the primary name on the shortlist for the remaining positions.

“I hope so,” he said. “During the talks, I made sure that I wanted clear goals for the approaching years, a transparent project that I could take part in and work on together.

“I'm ready to commit and I have my priorities straight. I hope that puts me in a strong position.”

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