Since the news of Sebastian Vettel leaving Scuderia Ferrari went public, the Formula 1 silly season has now kicked off. One of the drivers touted to replace the German over at Ferrari was Daniel Ricciardo. In another bit of shock news, Ricciardo won't be going to Ferrari. Instead, he will be driving for McLaren.
This isn't just some rumor either. McLaren themselves have confirmed that the Australian will be behind the wheel of the second race car. By next year, Ricciardo will be the teammate of Lando Norris, who McLaren confirmed will be retained for the 2021 season. It was said that McLaren had approached Ricciardo two years ago, but he decided to go to Renault instead of the 2019-2020 season. This will be the last year Ricciardo will drive for the French squad.
Daniel Ricciardo entered Formula 1 in 2011 with HRT and was signed into Toro Rosso the following year. In 2014, he was promoted to Red Bull Racing, scoring seven wins during his five-year stay with the team. He then made the move to Renault in 2019 but saw a year with little in the way of points. Ricciardo has made it clear that he wants to be world champion someday, and with McLaren getting power units from Mercedes-Benz again, this might just be his ticket to that title. After all, he had already reached as high as third in the World Drivers Championship two times.
"Signing Daniel is another step forward in our long-term plan and will bring an exciting new dimension to the team, alongside Lando. This is good news for our team, partners, and of course our fans," said Zak Brown, chief executive officer of McLaren. With Ricciardo in, Carlos Sainz Jr will be leaving the British outfit by the end of the season.
But just moments after McLaren released their statement, Ferrari made an announcement of their own too. The Scuderia have officially welcomed Sainz Jr. for the 2021 season. He replaces Vettel and will be paired up with Charles Leclerc. This is a big move for Ferrari, as they typically veteran drivers behind the wheel of their cars. Sainz is just 25 years old while Leclerc is even younger, aged 22.
Like Ricciardo, Sainz Jr. is a graduate of the Red Bull Driver Academy program. He raced for Toro Rosso from 2015 until halfway through 2017 when he landed in Renault. He spent a year and a half with Renault then eventually moved to McLaren. His time with the team proved fruitful, giving himself his first podium in Formula 1 and giving McLaren their first in many years.
"I am very happy that I will be driving for Scuderia Ferrari in 2021 and I’m excited about my future with the team. I still have an important year ahead with McLaren Racing and I’m really looking forward to going racing again with them this season," said Sainz Jr.
That brings us back to Vettel. Where will he go after the 2020 season? For now, his only option appears to be with Renault as they are the only other team with a definite vacant seat in 2021. If Vettel doesn't go for that, it looks like he might be headed for early retirement.