Verstappen tips Sainz to beat Ricciardo in race for Ferrari seat

Luke Smith

Ferrari announced on Tuesday morning that four-time world champion Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of the season after talks over a new contract broke down. The decision has kicked off the driver market silly season for 2021, freeing up one of the most coveted seats on the F1 grid.

Red Bull driver Verstappen reacted to the news while speaking in an Instagram Q&A with former F1 racer David Coulthard for Puma on Tuesday evening. 

“The speculation was going on a bit, is he going to continue with Ferrari or not – well today it’s out, he’s not,” Verstappen said. “I guess also very soon we’ll find out who the replacement is going to be.

“It’s definitely not me, I can tell you. I’m at Red Bull. I saw some questions coming along if I was going to Ferrari, but I’m not.

“It is what it is. Somebody else gets an opportunity to drive now for Ferrari, and of course it’s a great team, and I’m sure they will make the right decision about the next driver. Let’s see what’s going to happen there.” 

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McLaren driver Sainz and Renault’s Ricciardo have emerged as the favourites for the drive alongside Charles Leclerc at Ferrari in 2021. Verstappen has previously served as a team-mate to both drivers, partnering Sainz at Toro Rosso through 2015 and early 2016 before joining Ricciardo at Red Bull for almost three seasons.

Coulthard asked Verstappen to pick whether he thought the seat would go to a driver "with an Italian sounding name or someone with a Spanish sounding name”, hinting at Ricciardo and Sainz respectively.

“I think it’s not going to be the Italian sounding name,” Verstappen said. “Let’s see. At the end of the day, it’s just a guess. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Sainz is understood to be the leading the chase for the Ferrari seat at present, and while a deal is still to be agreed and finalised, it is possible it may be sewn up as soon as this week.