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Scorching Sainz puts hamstrung Hamilton in F1 shade to set silly season sizzling

Scorching Sainz puts hamstrung Hamilton in F1 shade to set silly season sizzling

Scorching Sainz puts hamstrung Hamilton in F1 shade to set silly season sizzling

Scorching Sainz puts hamstrung Hamilton in F1 shade to set silly season sizzling

Formula 1 can be a funny place to find motivation when winning isn't possible, yet Carlos Sainz's barnstorming Bahrain drive proved external factors can encourage the best from a driver.

With Lewis Hamilton displacing the Spaniard after what will be a three-year spell at Maranello, Sainz seemed to race with a determination to keep his name in the F1 world.

His drive to survive (lowercase) the upcoming silly season began early in the Bahrain GP, and how his story unfolds will be a thrilling watch in a Drive to Survive (capitalised) episode next year.

We'll only know the pecking order of the 19 also-ran drivers after a few rounds at different track types, but should Sainz continue with the ferocity he had for the 57 laps of Bahrain, he could be the vice-champion driver by Abu Dhabi.

READ MORE: Bahrain F1 Grand Prix 2024 results: Verstappen survives early scrap to win as rivals suffer NIGHTMARE

Carlos Sainz celebrated on the podium after his sensational drive

Bahrain's Driver of the Day

Only the start let Sainz down in the race, losing out to Sergio Perez, and that was mainly thanks to the Mexican's sensational launch, partly helped by being on the grippy side of the grid.

Sainz made up for that lost position by sticking in the wing mirrors of whatever car was ahead of him.

He pulled off two overtakes on teammate Charles Leclerc, much to the detriment of some Tifosi fingernails, and looked like the No 1 Maranello man throughout the race.

Leclerc's braking woes may somewhat flatter Sainz, but the Spaniard's car placement and faith in the Ferrari brakes during both moves exemplified why he won the fan's Driver of the Day vote.

The Lap 18 pass on George Russell at Turn 4 might not have had the late-lunge drama shown in the Ferrari vs Ferrari battles, but Sainz's racecraft had him set up the move to perfection three corners earlier.

Had Sainz qualified three hundredths faster or slower, he would've benefitted from the starting line grip and might've held Perez back or beat him off the line.

While Red Bull's might is unquestionable, I don't think Perez could've passed the Sainz on show in Sakhir, and the P2 podium spot might've had the Spanish flag, not the Mexican.

READ MORE: Horner in defiant stance with wife Geri after Verstappen win

Sergio Perez might be under threat at Red Bull for the 2025 season

Who is driving for Red Bull in 2025?

Sainz's Bahrain driving looked like a racer who wants the best car under him and knows that the way to get that is to show on-track speed.

Red Bull's recent dominance looks set to stay over 2024, and it'd be a surprise for it to dissipate in 2025, making the Milton Keynes team the place to be next year.

Rumours dogged Perez all throughout 2023 about his longevity, and that's not going to change this year if he's already finishing a pit stop behind Verstappen at a track where everyone's spent the past fortnight practising.

Contractual obligations to Ferrari meant that Sainz wasn't in the conversation to replace Perez for 2024, but that's not the case for 2025.

Sainz began his F1 career alongside Verstappen in 2015 when the pair drove for Toro Rosso.

Perhaps I'm too romantic, but it'd be poetic for them to reunite a decade later at the top team, having taken very different paths to get there.

READ MORE: Hamilton admits Mercedes worry with just ONE Bahrain positive

Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen raced together for Toro Rosso

Lewis Hamilton's Replacement

The other top seat for 2025 is the one Sainz's Ferrari replacement, Hamilton, is vacating, and a straight swap is possible.

Toto Wolff will want a driver to energise the team and show the Brackley factory that their seven-time champion may be gone, but all is not lost.

Whether Sainz can fill that sizeable void is quite the ask, but in a sport where you're only as good as your last race, you can't deny the Spaniard fared far better than Hamilton in Bahrain.

He is a race-winning driver and the only man to stop Red Bull in their 2023 romp with an intelligent drive in Singapore, keeping Lando Norris behind as his shield from the Russell-Hamilton attack.

Consider that the only other racer to score a victory last year and feature on the podium in 2024 is Perez, and Sainz looks like the standout option.

Yes, Fernando Alonso is the world champion alternative, but does Wolff want to deal with the sport's most political player who will end 2025 as a 44-year-old driver, or the team-playing Spaniard with something to prove?

Who knows what silly season will bring this year, but after his Bahrain performance, Sainz just became Formula 1's most eligible bachelor.

READ MORE: Journalist claims Horner ‘messages’ leaked from anonymous email account

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