Carlos Sainz will be stay at Toro Rosso for 2017 after Red Bull activated its option to keep him on for a third season at the Italian team.
Sainz’s future in Formula 1 has been the subject of much speculation after Max Verstappen was unexpectedly promoted to Red Bull in a controversial seat-swap with Daniil Kvyat before the Spanish Grand Prix last month.
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner, who was speaking at a media event in the build up to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, explained that as all Toro Rosso drivers are contracted to the senior squad, the decision had been taken to renew Sainz’s deal.
Horner said: “We took up his option earlier this week so he is committed to Red Bull for the next 12 months.
“As with all the drivers they are contracted to Red Bull Racing, and then we have the ability to place them where we want. Of course, he is currently at Toro Rosso which is where he will be next year.
Horner also explained that although Red Bull had until the end of the year to activate its option on Sainz, the decision had been taken early to allow the 21-year-old to focus on the 2016 season.
He said: “We had until the end of the year to take up the option, and we chose to do it early to put his mind at rest.”
Sainz is currently 14th in the drivers’ championship on 18 points. His best finish so far in 2016 came at his home race in Spain, where he finished sixth.
A third year at Toro Rosso means Sainz will join Sebastien Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne as the only drivers to be given three years with the Faenza-based squad.
Red Bull’s junior programme has brought a number of drivers through their early careers to F1, and although it has only produced one world champion for the Austrian squad so far, Sebastian Vettel, Horner hailed its impact on the team.
He said: “It’s great for us to have a driver development programme that is producing talent like [Daniel] Ricciardo, like Verstappen, Carlos as well, and of course Dany Kvyat.
“We are not short of talent in our stable, and now we are set at Red Bull Racing for the next two and a half years.”
Sainz’s deal is also good news for Kvyat, as Horner said he would be “surprised” if the Russian was dropped from the Toro Rosso line up at the end of 2016.
When asked about if Kvyat was likely to released, Horner said: “I’d be surprised. Dany is continuing his development, you can see he is finding his feet now, and there is not an obvious candidate knocking on the door at the moment that would warrant that seat.”
Kvyat’s chances of staying at Toro Rosso are further improved by the fact that Red Bull has few junior drivers that look like they are ready to step up to F1 next season.
French GP2 racer Pierre Gasly is the most likely driver to be promoted but he has not won a race since 2013 and as Red Bull’s junior programme is famous for its deliver-or-be-dropped approach, it’s hard to see him being promoted to F1 at this stage.
What do you make of the news Sainz will stay at Toro Rosso next year? Do you think he and Kvyat deserve to be kept on? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.