Mercedes youngster Esteban Ocon is set to switch from Force India to Renault in 2019, leaving Carlos Sainz’s future uncertain.
Ocon has been at Force India since the start of 2017 and has impressed in his year and a half with the team to date, but last week saw any chance of a move up to Mercedes ended when Valtteri Bottas signed a one-year contract extension.
Although Force India has an option on the Frenchman for next year, sources have suggested to RACER that a deal is agreed with Renault for Ocon to move on and become Nico Hulkenberg’s teammate next year. However, it is unclear whether any compensation for Force India has been finalized.
Such a move leaves Sainz (pictured above chasing Ocon’s Force India) in limbo, as he is currently on loan at Renault from Red Bull. With Daniel Ricciardo expected to sign a new contract alongside Max Verstappen, there will be no space at the senior team and Sainz is understood to have a clause making a return to Toro Rosso unlikely.
That leaves Sainz needing to find another seat, with a senior source at Red Bull admitting Sainz is in danger of being left without a drive next year at this stage.
McLaren is one possible destination if Stoffel Vandoorne is replaced — Sainz shares the same manager as Fernando Alonso — but any movement regarding that team’s driver line-up is not expected to happen before Alonso makes a decision on his own future. In recent weeks, the double world champion has stated he will only consider his next move over the summer break.
There remain a number of unconfirmed seats in the midfield, with Force India, Haas, Sauber and Williams all open to changes, but a move to any of those teams would appear to be as a backward step for Sainz following a year with a manufacturer team.