McLaren: Sainz-Ferrari talks began last winter, Vettel never a 2021 option

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has revealed Carlos Sainz first began talking with Ferrari last winter after gaining his permission.

This week saw the 2021 Formula 1 puzzle change significantly after Sebastian Vettel and the Scuderia announced their split at the end of the year, with the Spaniard confirmed as his replacement two days later.

But while it may have appeared as though Ferrari had acted incredibly quickly to fill the seat alongside Charles Leclerc, the reality is actually quite different.

"Carlos and I spoke about it, so it wasn't hearing stuff through the grapevine," Brown told Sky Sports.

"I think how the majority of these driver movements happen is everyone is sneaking around the back of the motorhome, trying to have secret dates.

"McLaren has a bit of a different philosophy on our relationships with our people, including our drivers.

"It was a conversation that Carlos had with [team boss] Andreas [Seidl] and I over the winter. We actually had to give him permission to go speak with Ferrari, and we gave him that permission, so it was very above board."

Because of that openness, the McLaren chief expects the relationship with Sainz to remain strong through until the end of 2020.

"I think you can see by the way we are eventually going to part that we are very much going to race together this year," Brown continued.

"I think it's great to see that drivers and teams can separate and there not be animosity, because I think that if you look at some of the other movements, it looks like unfortunately there's some bad blood.

"And yet those people still need to race together this year. I'm quite proud of how we've all handled it."

As the Sainz-to-Ferrari speculation ramped up, attention turned to whether Vettel could swap seats and join McLaren from next year.

However, the American CEO confirmed Daniel Ricciardo was the only option they had to consider.

“Obviously Seb’s an awesome driver and a four-time champion,” he noted.

“But I think we were pretty far down the path in the off-season and knew we would either land with Daniel or Carlos.

“We never really entertained anyone beyond that, and especially with Seb’s late breaking news – we were pretty far down the path at that point.”

And with his options for 2021 limited, Brown expects Vettel to call it a day, at least for now.

“It doesn’t look like there’s a Mercedes or Red Bull opportunity for him, there’s not a McLaren opportunity for him, clearly not at Ferrari, so the next best is Renault,” he said.

“And the next question is does Seb want to go with a team that is probably not going to win in 2021?

“It’s a great team, and they too should be moving up the grid, but unless Seb wants to restart a journey with a team that’s back on a journey, then I think he’ll end up probably leaving the sport, unfortunately.”

Also Read: