Carlos Sainz will join Ferrari for the 2021 F1 season to replace Sebastian Vettel after signing a two-year deal with the sport’s most famous team.
On a huge day in F1’s transfer market, Daniel Ricciardo was earlier confirmed as the driver who will in turn replace Sainz at a Mercedes-powered McLaren team from next year.
Sainz, the 25-year-old Spaniard, will join Charles Leclerc in a rare youthful Ferrari line-up after what will be two years at McLaren and an impressive 2019 campaign, when the team’s fortunes improved and his stock rocketed.
It also finally puts to bed long-running speculation that Lewis Hamilton could join Ferrari.
The six-time world champion is expected to sign a new contract at Mercedes after consistently stressing his loyalty to the world champions.
“I am very happy that I will be driving for Scuderia Ferrari in 2021 and I’m excited about my future with the team,” said Sainz, who finished an impressive sixth in last year’s championship.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said: “We’ve embarked on a new cycle with the aim of getting back to the top in Formula 1. It will be a long journey, not without its difficulties, especially given the current financial and regulatory situation, which is undergoing a sudden change and will require this challenge to be tackled in a different way to the recent past.
“We believe that a driver pairing with the talent and personality of Charles and Carlos, the youngest in the past 50 years of the Scuderia, will be the best possible combination to help us reach the goals we have set ourselves.”
On the back of a hugely-impressive first season at Ferrari when he finished ahead of Vettel in the standings and won two races, Leclerc signed a new long-term deal to 2024 over the winter.
Vettel and Ferrari announced on Tuesday that they had decided not to agree a new deal for next year after six years together. The four-time champion’s F1 future beyond 2020 is now hugely uncertain, with Renault seemingly his best possibility if he wants to stay on the grid.
Not turning 26 until September, Sainz is already a member of F1’s 100 race club and was gearing up for his sixth season on the grid before the coronavirus crisis struck.
His switch from Renault to McLaren for 2019 was followed by the best season of his career so far when he finished sixth in the Drivers’ Championship – the best placing by a driver not driving for Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull.
The affable Spaniard, son of rallying legend Carlos Sainz Snr, claimed his maiden podium in the penultimate race of last season in Brazil, although famously had to stage a mock ceremony with McLaren after the race as his third place was not confirmed until a time penalty for Lewis Hamilton.
“With five seasons already behind him, Carlos has proved to be very talented and has shown that he has the technical ability and the right attributes to make him an ideal fit with our family,” said Binotto, his new team boss.
Having already run Max Verstappen close in their respective debut years at Toro Rosso in 2015, but ultimately been overlooked for a promotion to Red Bull and instead spent 18 months at Renault, Sainz’s move to McLaren was seen as something of a gamble with the former champions in transition and a Renault engine customer.
But the Woking team enjoyed their best season in years, with Sainz a fulcrum of their on-track efforts and striking up a friendly partnership with Lando Norris.
That partnership will continue for the remainder of this year when the 2020 campaign does begin.
“I still have an important year ahead with McLaren Racing and I’m really looking forward to going racing again with them this season,” declared Sainz.