Formula 1: Have Audi found their lead driver for 2026?

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images)
Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images) /

As the 2026 Formula 1 season nears and Audi prepare to make their official entry, rumored driver Carlos Sainz Jr. looks poised to be the center of the team.

Carlos Sainz Jr.’s tenure at Ferrari has been solid, but not spectacular. The team’s management and race weekend strategies have hurt his performance in the past, but he is turning out to be a true leader in Formula 1, demonstrating his ability to plan and execute on his own.

The qualities Sainz has developed over the last few seasons are good indicators that he would be a good fit as a team’s lead driver. With his current contract due to expire at the end of 2024, the Spaniard is looking for a contract that is more long-term.

With Audi set to come into the picture in 2026, he has long been rumored as a great option. If Sainz were to be the one to lead Audi to success in Formula 1, he would be doing so as a 31-year-old. Given the fact that he is looking for a longer contract, a move to Audi, which would be his fifth different team, could be his final push as a full-time driver.

His skills would be put to good use with Audi. In the past, we have seen Sainz have a great sense of strategy in accordance with his own goals, not necessarily the team’s goals, during a race.

At times, his defiance of Ferrari’s plan in favor of his own has worked successfully. The Singapore Grand Prix this past weekend was a perfect example, and it netted him his second career win and ended the historic win streaks of Red Bull (15 races) and Max Verstappen (10).

This sort of thinking is not normal for a typical Formula 1 driver.

It truly puts Sainz towards the top. Based on his skills and performance, he has proven himself to be deserving of a greater importance within a team.

Since Charles Leclerc joined Ferrari in 2019, he became their prioritized driver. Despite his mental shortcomings and inconsistencies, the team continue to put him above Sainz.

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It really makes one question whether Sainz’s abilities are being wasted at Ferrari. There are many indications of that being true, and that could result in a move to Audi as their lead driver in 2026.