Formula 1 Focus: Sainz steps up to spark the season into life, Mercedes hit new low


Formula 1 Focus: Sainz steps up to spark the season into life, Mercedes hit new low

Sainz is Ferrari's main man right now
Sainz is Ferrari's main man right nowReuters
There's always plenty to talk about in the non-stop world of Formula 1, and Flashscore's Finley Crebolder gives his thoughts on the biggest stories going around the paddock in this regular column.

After two dull affairs to begin the season, Formula 1 got just what the doctor ordered down under with Ferrari and Carlos Sainz stepping up to spark the 2024 campaign into life.

Here are my takeaways from the Australian Grand Prix.

Sainz shows Ferrari what they're losing, and Red Bull what they could have

It was harsh of Ferrari to drop Sainz for the 2025 campaign, but widely seen to be the right call given they were replacing him with all-time great Lewis Hamilton. I still think that's the case myself, but their decision to drop him could cause them problems later down the line if he keeps performing as well as he is right now, because it could end up considerably strengthening their main rivals. 

What Red Bull need from their second driver is someone who can step in and win races if something goes wrong for Verstappen, and Sergio Perez didn't come close to doing that in Australia. If that continues to be the case, they'll start to look around for a replacement, and there are few more enticing options than the only man to beat them since the start of 2023.

In all fairness to Ferrari, when they decided to get rid of Sainz it seemed highly unlikely that he could end up at Red Bull, but Daniel Ricciardo's struggles and a civil war that has created question marks around Verstappen's future and status with the team have changed that, as was made clear by team principal Christian Horner's comments after the race on Sunday. 

"Sometimes you've got to look outside the pool as well," he said after Sainz's win. "You've had a very fast unemployed driver win today... I mean Carlos is the only driver that's beaten Red Bull, so he appears to be our nemesis."

However good a pairing of Leclerc and Hamilton may be, letting the man that your rivals consider their nemesis leave and join their ranks isn't ideal to put it lightly, and it now looks a real possibility. 

For Sainz meanwhile, a move to Sauber - who will become Audi in 2026 - looked to be his most likely next move initially, but if he keeps performing this well, he can fancy his chances of getting any available seat he wants, and could well end up in the best car on the grid. His future seems very much in his own hands. 

No end in sight for Mercedes' misery 

One option that won't be too appealing right now for Sainz is Mercedes, with the German team looking to have followed up a solid step forward last season with a bigger backwards one this year. 

The hope coming into this campaign was that, while they would maybe not have a rapid car, it would be a solid and stable starting point that they could develop as the season went on, but three races in, they look to have once again ended up with machinery that they can't get their heads around.

Hamilton ended up second from last in FP2 after running a setup that was all wrong and then wasn't able to get into the final qualifying session, with George Russell only doing so by the skin of his teeth. The gap ahead to rivals Ferrari and McLaren was huge, and would remain so throughout the race. 

One thing the team have had going for them in the last few years is an ability to get the best out of their poor machinery on race day thanks to good reliability and good strategies, but they didn't even have that at Albert Park. An engine failure forced Hamilton to retire 18 laps in and Russell then crashed out on the penultimate one to give Toto Wolff and co their first double DNF since 2018. 

If things don't improve, it could cause problems that go far beyond this season. They need a replacement for Hamilton in 2025, and while Sainz, Fernando Alonso and even Verstappen have been linked, they're all highly unlikely to join a team that have shown such an inability to solve their problems in the past few years, with seats at Red Bull, Aston Martin and even the future Audi team looking more appealing right now. 

With how things are going, it seems a very real possibility that Mercedes' only options for 2025 will be to either take a chance on junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli or get someone from further down the grid such as Alex Albon or Nico Hulkenberg. It's fair to say that for Wolff, the pressure is very much on.

Ricciardo nearing the end of the road 

Maybe the only man in Formula 1 feeling even more pressure than Wolff at the moment is Daniel Ricciardo, who isn't currently doing enough to keep his seat at RB, let alone get a Red Bull promotion. 

He would have been hoping to finally get his career back on track at his home race by outperforming teammate Yuki Tsunoda for the first time this season but the opposite happened, with the Japanese driver comfortably quicker than the Aussie throughout the weekend, firmly establishing himself as the stronger of the two.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, Ricciardo didn't feel like he could have gone any quicker after being out-qualified. He suggested that may have been down to an issue with the car that he and the team had yet to find, but he said the same after being soundly beaten by Lando Norris during his McLaren days only for no problems to be found with his machinery. 

It is hard to believe that someone who was once more than a match for Max Verstappen in the same car could have lost so much pace, but the evidence of the last four years strongly suggests that is indeed the case, and if he doesn't prove otherwise, he'll be lucky if his F1 career even lasts until the end of the season.

The New Zealand Herald has reported that Helmut Marko has told Ricciardo he'll be replaced by junior driver Liam Lawson if he doesn't improve within the next two races, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if that's the case. With Lawson being a big talent who showed immense potential when stepping in for Ricciardo last season, there's not a single reason to have the older of the two in the car if he's not considerably faster.

If you pay attention to anything in the next two rounds, pay attention to Ricciardo, because it looks like his entire Formula 1 career could rest on whether he can get the better of Tsunoda or not. 



France gouvernement

Les jeux d’argent et de hasard peuvent être dangereux : pertes d’argent, conflits familiaux, addiction…

Retrouvez nos conseils sur (09-74-75-13-13, appel non surtaxé)

Do you want to withdraw your consent to display betting ads?
Yes, change settings