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Should Carlos Sainz pick Williams or Audi for 2025? Our F1 writers have their say

The Spaniard is closing in on a decision about his F1 future, but what's the best option?

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, in the post Qualifying Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Carlos Sainz continues to keep his cards close to his chest when it comes to making a call about where he will drive in the 2025 Formula 1 season after his Ferrari exit.

The Spaniard's shortlist appears to have been reduced to two teams: Williams or Audi, which will join F1 in 2026 while it continues to run under its Sauber guise next year.

But which team should Sainz pick? Our writers give their verdict.

Oleg Karpov: Audi will build a team around him

He says it's a lottery, but what Carlos Sainz is about to do is more like a bet. Yet choosing between two horses that are currently the slowest in the paddock is not something he would have imagined a year ago.

It's hard to judge from the outside, and only Sainz himself, and probably his managers, have the full picture of what these horses will be fed to make them run faster in the near future. But it has to be Audi, doesn't it? 

The key elements are all well-known. It's a huge project, it's a major manufacturer, it's ambition, it's money, it's everything.

But it's also an opportunity for Sainz to finally have the team built around him. Has it occurred to you that every door he has knocked on in recent months has been closed for the same reason?

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Francois Tremblay / Motorsport Images

Red Bull is built around Max Verstappen, and the choice of second driver was also (or mainly?) dictated by the need to keep the Dutchman happy. He's been a Red Bull driver since he was 16 and it's very much his team.

Mercedes is not so much George Russell's team yet, but Toto Wolff won't be replacing his driver with Sainz. And as things stand, he's ready to promote Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli to F1 instead of taking race winner Sainz.

After all, when Ferrari had to decide who to partner Lewis Hamilton with, they chose Charles Leclerc, a Ferrari driver since he was about four years old. And there's also no place for Sainz at McLaren because it's Norris's team anyway.

Sainz was brought into F1 by Red Bull too, but became one of those talented but unlucky drivers who had the misfortune to come through the system at the same time as Verstappen, and it was probably wise to escape.

But since then, he has never quite found the team that would be fully behind him. And that could be Audi: A huge manufacturer, and an important project for the brand.

In the long term, it sounds like Audi has a better chance of success than Williams, with all due respect to Dorilton Capital and James Vowles.

Much has been made of Sauber's current struggles, but there's probably nothing less important for the whole project than the current results. Don't be fooled by the rhetoric - this is a team in transition, willing to sacrifice in the short term to get better in the future.

Take these pitstop troubles, for instance. You wouldn't have heard about them if the team hadn't decided to radically upgrade its hardware. A few hiccups during a transition period is a price Andreas Seidl and his team are happy to pay.

And the same goes for mid-season engineering changes. Sauber is simply preparing to become Audi. It would be more worrying if they started firing on all cylinders now.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team,reas Seidl, CEO, Kick Sauber, Beat Zehnder, Sporting Director, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team,reas Seidl, CEO, Kick Sauber, Beat Zehnder, Sporting Director, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Yes, it would be odd for Sainz to choose the team that is currently bottom of the standings. But then again, nobody would want to go to Honda at the end of 2008, would they?

It is hard to imagine Audi beating the established leaders in 2026, but stranger things have happened in F1. I don't think it matters much to Sainz if he's fighting to get out of Q1 or, say, in the lower positions of the top 10 next year. He wants to be fighting for titles in the future. And a fully-fledged manufacturer's team is always a better choice if you want to hit the jackpot.

After all, his long-term plan for the future could always be... Ferrari. Unlike Fernando Alonso, he has never completely burned the bridges with the teams he has raced for.

He still has unfinished business with Renault, if you remember the statements made in 2018. He's still valued by McLaren. And he's now a great team player at Ferrari, having given no hint in public that he's too displeased with the team's decision. He's even "happy for Charles" that Leclerc won in Monaco.

So, if the Audi bet doesn't work out in three years' time and Hamilton decides to call it a day, he'll probably have a chance to come back. But by then he might not need it.

Ewan Gale: Williams is still the better option

While the draw of Audi is understandably a dangling carrot for a driver whose dad for so long has been a key part of the manufacturer's motorsport success, Williams has enough to prove a better option.

In fact, the biggest negatives associated with the Grove-based outfit can easily be turned into positives by looking at the work being undertaken in the background since James Vowles arrived as team principal.

It would be an understatement to suggest the factory and race team was behind the times when it came to operations across the board, with Vowles continually banging the drum about the carried-forward shortcomings - I mean, Excel spreadsheets... really?

But what the former Mercedes strategy director has done since joining has been to revolutionise the entire team, a process which is slow-moving but has eyes to the future and, not least, the 2026 rules reset.

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

Photo by: Francois Tremblay

Results since the start of 2023 have been promising, given the low expectations placed on the Williams team ahead of time. Alex Albon has been a shining star, whilst Logan Sargeant has proven the speed of the car is not just down to his team-mate on rare occasion.

Whilst a few issues have shown this year, not least having a lack of replacement chassis early on which forced the team into running just one car at the Australian Grand Prix, these are a legacy of the behind-the-scenes progression being undertaken and, if the team is able to consistently hang around the fringes of the points in its current form, then there can only be positivity when looking to the future.

To that point, a number of hirings have been made by Williams in management positions, not least veteran Pat Fry, to bolster the ongoing push up the grid.

The reset in 2026 will give the team a chance to start on the front foot with its new challenger, rather than what happened two years ago under the newest regulation ruleset where a poor car and pre-season struggles left it fighting to be competitive.

But the power unit situation could also be a huge sway for Sainz. While Audi will be entering with its own works unit - which itself does come with advantages - it is a completely new undertaking for the marque and could present itself with similar issues to that experienced by Honda last decade.

If that's the case, it could be years until that power unit is competitive in F1 against the established OEMs in Ferrari, Mercedes and Honda.

Alex Albon, Williams FW46

Alex Albon, Williams FW46

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Williams, on the other hand, will be in possession of Mercedes' unit which, if paddock noise is to be heeded, is looking strong for the new regulations.

Yes, it will be a customer supply that Williams has to take on compared to Audi, which will limit certain design features whilst its rivals can create a car with a blank canvas. But that hasn't stopped McLaren in recent times - the Woking-based team far outperforming the factory Mercedes effort in the past 18 months.

Another crucial factor that could sway Sainz is that Williams is trending upwards from a slump and looks to be progressing through the field, becoming more competitive month by month. Audi's team, Sauber, is struggling to find any form as the C44 labours near the back of the pack week in, week out.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu have effectively been hamstrung by the car's performance on track, while pitstop issues heralding from a winter update to pit equipment is hardly an enticing proposition for any driver, let alone one of Sainz's race-winning stature. Watching a car stationary in its box for half a minute race to race cannot be appealing.

You have to feel that momentum has to count for a lot when making his decision so as to not completely waste a year next term whilst waiting for the 2026 regulations. That would push Sainz towards Williams.

There has been plenty of flattery from Vowles in recent weeks as Sainz mulls over his decision, something which the Spaniard has acknowledged. He and Albon could be the type of galvanising partnership that could propel a team like Williams into a regular podium-contending force in the years to come.

Maybe that is more of a draw than a works drive - one that could be more rewarding if success does come his way.

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