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Williams

Sainz vs. Bottas: Who will land Williams F1 seat?

Two names have emerged as the front-runners to partner Alexander Albon at Williams next season: Carlos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas. But who will come out on top?

Sainz Bottas
Analysis
To news overview © XPBimages

It is becoming increasingly clear that the fight for the second Williams seat is between Carlos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas.

With incumbent Logan Sargeant under substantial pressure to improve his form, it is more likely the Grove-based team will seek solutions to its second seat elsewhere.

At the previous round in Imola, team principal James Vowles confirmed three drivers were in the running to partner Alexander Albon next season.

That was initially believed to be Sargeant, Andrea Kimi Antonelli and Bottas - who RacingNews365 confirmed is in talks with Williams and Alpine.

In recent days, however, it has become evident that outgoing Ferrari driver Sainz is also in advanced discussions with the team.

It makes the maths puzzling, partly due to rumours Williams submitted the FIA super licence exemption request for Antonelli, who will not turn 18 until later this year. It seems, however, the F2 driver is edging closer to securing Lewis Hamilton's seat with Mercedes for next season.

Therefore, unless Sargeant can do something to defy expectations and alter the existing narrative around him - and quickly - the likelihood is it will be a straight fight between Sainz and Bottas.

Futures intrinsically linked

Sainz and Bottas' fortunes in the driver market may well be inherently linked. The latter's current team, Stake F1, has long courted the signature of the former, as it transitions towards being the works Audi team from 2026.

Now, with Nico Hulkenberg penned to a multi-year deal with the German marque, Bottas will need to find a new home next season if Sainz does ultimately join Audi - which is still believed to be the most likely landing spot for the 29-year-old.

If he does not, Bottas may be able to stay put. However, it is becoming apparent the Finnish driver is seeking pastures new, given he is seemingly a fall-back option at his current employer.

Sainz, meanwhile, has seen his 'silly season' choices whittled down over recent weeks. He is taking his time in making a decision. By doing so, his bargaining power is waning, and he is at risk of being left on the outside looking in.

And with Mercedes and Red Bull leaning increasingly towards Antonelli and Sergio Perez, respectively, his dwindling options could be reduced to merely Audi and Williams. If he does indeed choose the second of those, Bottas could find himself in a difficult spot.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Sainz vs. Bottas

On the face of it, joining the Audi project seems like the better choice for Sainz. However, that would tie him into a long-term contract, and it could be some time before the team is competitive enough to fight at the front, which the Spaniard is now accustomed to.

He is entering his prime, and will no doubt want to be in a title fight before long, which Audi may not be able to offer him for the foreseeable future. 

Williams is also some way from being at the sharp end of the field, but it can likely provide the 29-year-old with more flexibility - potentially even just a one-plus-one or two-year deal to bring them into the new regulations era together, at which point he can reassess. 

Plus, Williams has a Mercedes power unit, which come 2026 could vault the team up the grid if rumours are to be believed.

Sainz, however, may not be the best option for Williams. In Bottas, the Grove outfit gets a known commodity, with the 34-year-old previously racing for the team between 2013 and 2016. Not to mention his years with Vowles at Mercedes thereafter. 

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Bottas is also a steady pair of hands. Experienced, likely content with the race-winning portion of his career being behind him, and likely more willing to stick around long-term. He would also be considerably cheaper to hire.

Sainz has proven his current form with a recent grand prix win, and starting the year well, more generally, in the wake of losing his Ferrari seat. Bottas, meanwhile, is also having a quietly strong season.

He is without points so far, in large part due to Stake F1's pit stop issues, and the results may not reflect his pace, but he has put in some impressive qualifying displays to go with some good racing, even if the situation dictates it is a few places outside the top 10.

So, whilst Sainz might be the more obvious choice - and maybe even considered a coup if Williams can land him - Bottas may well be the better option. 

In Albon, it has its team leader, and the ex-Mercedes driver would complement him well, providing a blend of experience and dependability.

It is not to say Williams will ultimately opt for the Finn - the Spaniard might be seen as too good to pass up - but it is a decision that is by no means as clear cut as it might initially seem.

Who would you sign if you were James Vowles? Let us know by commenting on this article or voting below in the latest RacingNews365 poll.

Also interesting:

In the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com podcast, Ian Parkes, Samuel Coop and Nick Golding look back at this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen and Lando Norris went head-to-head for the victory around the famous Imola Circuit as McLaren continue to pile the pressure on Red Bull!

Rather watch than listen to the podcast? Click here.

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