'Hurry up Carlos': Drivers becoming 'bored' of Sainz's 2025 indecision


Mixed reactions after Norris and Verstappen's controversial crash; further frustrations with track limits; F1 drivers eager for a decision from Sainz; and the effect of F1's relentless calendar. Chris Medland's diary from the 2024 Austrian GP paddock

Carlos Sainz

When will Sainz finally make his big decision?

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A true flashpoint between title rivals for the first time since 2021 and it invoked some strong opinions in the paddock. But elsewhere there was frustration at the holding pattern in the driver market, and a general improvement in the way the race was policed.


All manner of opinions on THAT clash

I’m not sure if inevitable is the right word, but when Max Verstappen and Lando Norris had been starting alongside each other for three races in a row, and had enjoyed so many close results fighting for victory in recent races, perhaps a true on-track fight was coming.

The fact that it ended in contact certainly wasn’t inevitable, but it led to some extremely firm viewpoints on different sides of the battle.

I interviewed Christian Horner immediately after the chequered flag for SiriusXM and he suggested Norris was to blame, saying “he picked up four track violations, so he was going to get a five-second penalty, and it just felt like he was trying to cause something up at Turn 3”.

That was not an opinion that sat well with Andrea Stella, who questioned Horner’s integrity, although the latter felt very much like he was standing up for his driver regardless of his true belief or understand at that time.

But Stella was very quick to point to the incidents in 2021 between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen as the catalyst for Sunday’s collision, saying overly robust defending and changes of direction went unchecked.

“We don’t want to see another 2021,” he said. “I thought that was not a good point in Formula 1 racing. It might have been entertaining, but not for the good reasons.”

Those comments will trigger wider debates, and while you could argue Verstappen was racing to the rules as they’ve allowed him up to now, it did seem hypocritical at the time to criticise Norris for “divebombing” into Turn 3. Remember the move here on Charles Leclerc anyone? But perhaps Guenther Steiner summed it up best post-race when he said both drivers had to carry some share of the blame, and ultimately seeing hard on-track battles when both are so desperate to win is going to be good for F1.

Max Verstappen Lando Norris

Are we seeing the origins of F1’s next great rivalry?

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Whether that’s completely true, I’m not sure, but it certainly will lead to a huge spike in interest heading into Silverstone, and major focus the next time those two go wheel-to-wheel.


Track limits

You may have read the track limits feature we published in the build-up to the race, that outlined just how the FIA and the Red Bull Ring had invested heavily to try and avoid a repeat of a year ago.

Now with the race out of the way, it’s fair to say that there was a massive improvement in the situation, but it still wasn’t perfect.

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Where there was room for further progress actually comes down to interpretation rather than anything that requires extra investment. It was clear from the regulations that drivers would still have lap times deleted for crossing the white line with all four wheels, regardless of whether there was gravel waiting, or grass, or even a wall.

But McLaren’s frustration at Oscar Piastri having his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 6 was well-founded, because it is a silly approach to create the physical limit but then still police the white line instead.

Drivers have shown they are less likely to exceed track limits anyway once there’s a gravel trap on the exit of a corner, so they should then be allowed to take as much risk as possible up to the gravel where it is waiting beyond the kerb. It’s spectacular, it rewards high levels of skill, and it reduces the need to check track limits at those points even further, speeding up matters and reducing confusion overall.

The FIA will discuss the matter as part of a review of Austria, and hopefully make the right call, but it shouldn’t overshadow what was a really good response to what happened in 2023.


Drivers getting tired of waiting

A week ago I mentioned that Carlos Sainz is on the verge of making a decision about his future, and that remains the case. But there’s no clear timeframe on the call he’s going to make, and it’s becoming a more and more frustrating situation for the rest of the grid.

I can understand Sainz’s reluctance. He has three main options: Williams, Stake (to become Audi) and Alpine. The latter is still the outsider but with a Mercedes power unit supply the most likely outcome if Alpine does ditch its own power unit project to become a customer, it automatically becomes that bit more attractive based on the confidence coming out of Brixworth.

But there are no certainties, both in terms of Alpine’s future plans nor in how any of those teams will fare in 2026. Plus, while Sainz was angling for a Red Bull drive, there’s still a seat at Mercedes that looks ever-less likely to be filled by Max Verstappen in the short-term. With Andrea Kimi Antonelli enduring a tough F2 year — not helped by largely uncompetitive machinery — Sainz recently liked a fan post suggesting the Italian rookie should join Williams for two years to gain experience, while the Spaniard pens a similar length deal at Mercedes.

Carlos Sainz

Is Sainz still eying up a partnership with George Russell for 2025?

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That all adds up to a further desire from Sainz not to tie himself into a deal before he’s certain all the top seats have gone. But it leaves the likes of Kevin Magnussen, Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant waiting.

Those are just the drivers that are currently in seats, and they’re joined by a mix of expectant — see Ollie Bearman or Antonelli — and hopeful — see Jack Doohan — rookies. And after I spoke to one of the above who doesn’t have a confirmed drive yet for 2025, they admitted it is becoming “boring” waiting for Sainz to make his move.

Knowing that Sainz has three big-money offers on his plate, they had less sympathy for his plight and hoped a decision will come soon so that everyone can have more certainty about their respective futures.


Norris under the weather

I know you don’t want to hear about complaints from people in the F1 paddock about the schedule in this feature, but the relentless nature of the calendar was starting to rear its head during the first part of this triple header.

Canada was the last standalone race of the season, with the current triple followed by back-to-backs in Hungary and Belgium, Netherlands and Monza and Azerbaijan and Singapore, and then a pair of triple headers to end the season.

And having been to North America before that run started, Lando Norris was struggling as the Spanish Grand Prix weekend progressed. He was audibly unwell in Austria and by Saturday was even addressing it himself more openly.

“I can’t say how much it’s affecting me. It’s not helping, that’s probably the main thing, but I wouldn’t say anything that’s changing my performance on track. It’s not to that level. So just talking, so stop asking me stuff and I’ll be happy!

“Nothing that’s affecting me I don’t think, but small things away from the track and just being tired and not sleeping good and that kind of stuff. So I’m sure a little bit, but nothing that I would use as an excuse to help me on track.”

Lando Norris Max Verstappen

Even before his racing-ending clash with Verstappen, Norris had felt drained

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The problem for Norris is he’s got perhaps his busiest race weekend of the year to follow this week at Silverstone, so there’s such little time to try and recover. And the drivers regularly point out that they have it easiest of those in the sport with their schedules and workloads, whereas the schedule takes an even tougher toll on many engineers and mechanics.

A “breaking point” is often referenced when the calendar is released — then it’s accepted and expansion continues — but Norris’ illness has just served as a reminder that the sport needs to think carefully about its scheduling.