Carlos Sainz Jr. is set to replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari in 2021, MotorsportWeek.com has learned, with Daniel Ricciardo poised to switch to McLaren.
Ferrari announced on Tuesday that it will not continue its relationship with Vettel beyond the end of the 2020 season, bringing their six-year partnership to a close.
Sainz Jr., Ricciardo and Ferrari’s reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi – currently racing for Alfa Romeo – were identified as the main candidates to join Charles Leclerc, who is under contract until 2024.
Sainz Jr. emerged as the front-runner and is now expected to link up with Leclerc in 2021, with an announcement due before the end of the current week.
Ferrari’s decision also ends speculation linking six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton with the team, with the Briton widely expected to commit his future to current squad Mercedes.
Sainz Jr. made his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2015 and pushed through a move to Renault during the closing stages of 2017, sensing he had no chance of a Red Bull seat.
Renault recruited Ricciardo to partner Nico Hulkenberg for 2019 and Sainz Jr. instead switched to McLaren, partnering rookie Lando Norris.
Sainz Jr. enjoyed his strongest campaign to date, placing sixth in the Drivers’ Championship, and also collected his maiden podium finish in Brazil.
Sainz Jr.’s move to Ferrari will open a vacancy at McLaren and it is understood that Ricciardo is poised to fill the breach.
Ricciardo was previously linked to McLaren in mid-2018 when he was considering his future, before he put pen to paper on a two-year deal at Renault.
But Renault endured a troubled 2019 campaign, limiting Ricciardo to ninth in the standings, and he is now expected to move on at the end of the year.
Renault has previously hinted that it is keen for one of its Academy drivers to graduate to Formula 1 in 2021 and current tester Guan Yu Zhou is understood to be a leading contender.
Zhou was last year’s leading rookie in the Formula 2 championship, where he will continue to race for UNI-Virtuosi, while China is regarded as an important market for Renault.