McLaren's Carlos Sainz in advanced talks to replace Vettel at Ferrari
Renault's Ricciardo set to join McLaren
He may have yet to win a Formula One race, but McLaren's Carlos Sainz has emerged as the front-runner to replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari.
Various media reported yesterday that Ferrari have reached advanced negotiations with the 25-year-old Spaniard, following Vettel's announcement on Tuesday that he will leave the Italian team at the end of the season.
Renault's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, who was also one of the candidates to replace Vettel, could be taking Sainz's place at McLaren instead.
The reports corroborate what Red Bull driver Max Verstappen had told former F1 racer David Coulthard during an Instagram Q&A on Tuesday.
When Coulthard asked him whether Vettel's Ferrari seat would go to an Italian -sounding name or a Spanish-sounding one - in reference to Ricciardo and Sainz - Verstappen said: "I think it's not going to be the Italian-sounding name... just a guess. We'll have to wait and see."
Both Ricciardo and Sainz, who were teammates with Verstappen at different teams, are out of contract at end of the year.
Sainz, who joined McLaren last year and forged close ties with rookie Lando Norris, finished sixth in the drivers' standings, three spots above the 30-year-old Ricciardo, who has won seven races in his F1 career.
There was also speculation that Spain's double world champion Fernando Alonso, who left Formula One at the end of 2018, could make a comeback with Renault - the team he won his titles with in 2005 and 2006.
"I see a scenario which is Sainz to Ferrari, Ricciardo to McLaren, and then that leaves a seat at Renault that probably would be Alonso," said former F1 driver and Sky Sports television pundit Martin Brundle.
Sainz finished on the podium only once last year - third place at the Brazil Grand Prix - but it was McLaren's first podium finish since 2014.
He would be seen as an ideal partner for Ferrari's 22-year-old Charles Leclerc, who overshadowed Vettel last year and is seen as a future world champion. Autosport reported that an announcement is expected later this week.
Verstappen also ruled himself out of the move to Ferrari, saying that he "definitely" would not be leaving Red Bull at the end of a season which has been delayed to start in July due to the Covid-19 pandemic.