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Formula 1

Is Williams's bold Sainz 2025 claim right?

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Williams Formula 1 boss James Vowles’ assertion it is an “easy decision to come here” is a bold claim when it is rivalling the Audi works team for Carlos Sainz's services.

Sainz’s choice is understood to have boiled down to Williams or Audi (currently Sauber) for 2025 and beyond, although he is yet to make a decision.

Sauber/Audi has long been the favourite and on paper, Williams would seem to pale in comparison to being the frontman for a brand new works team from one of the world’s biggest manufacturers, one that has a rich history across motorsport.

But F1 teams don’t perform on paper and right now, Audi’s got even more work to do than Williams to ensure its team is competitive by the time new regulations come into force in 2026. After all, Sauber’s the one with no points this season, on a downward spiral in this rules era, and looks at a loss to address its problems.

Williams, on the other hand, is broadly on a good trajectory since the Dorilton takeover of 2020. And Vowles, who took charge last year, has recruited the esteemed Pat Fry as chief technical officer, and convinced Alex Albon to commit to a long-term deal, believes Williams is now an entirely different proposition to “three years ago” – one that can convince a driver of Sainz’s calibre to join.

“The fact that we're even talking to Carlos shows you that we've changed our approach,” he told Sky Sports F1.

“We want two world-class drivers to be a part of our stable going forward. We want the world to realise that we're here and we're serious.

“We're investing in what it takes to be back in the front. In 2026, we have one of the best power units, if not the best power unit, coming to our car.

“We'll announce shortly, I hope, around about 30 incredible people from other teams joining our organisation that we've been gathering across the last 12 months.

“The world is changing and someone like Carlos would feature very highly in our regard in terms of the big grand picture of where we are.

“Of course he has the choice of whether he wants to come here or not. That's his to make.

“I think you can see all the strengths. It's easy for me to say because I'm Williams and I wear the shirt. I think it's an easy decision to come here, but it has to be his to make.”

Sainz has not indicated the exact criteria needed to pick either team. While Audi has plenty of benefits – including the leadership of Andreas Seidl, Sainz’s old boss at McLaren – Williams seems well-positioned to match most of them and offer others of its own. It’s a nimbler organisation, independent, and potentially can give Sainz some flexibility in a contract that Audi would rather not.

It would seem illogical for a manufacturer like Audi to open itself up to the embarrassment of signing a driver who could then walk away after just a couple of years. A vote of no confidence like that, in a massive money project, would be awful. Whereas for Williams, getting Sainz in for two years is already a huge victory, and it would then be in the frame to keep him if the progress that’s promised is made.

Ultimately, neither is a stunning choice for a driver of Sainz's calibre. They are two of the bottom three teams in the championship, with poor recent track records, for good reason. Sainz is picking between the least-worst options for his next career move. 

But within that context, Williams is compelling. It talks a good game in the long-term, backed up by strong leadership and clear investment from its owner. But with the low-hanging fruit seemingly there for the taking in terms of weight gains, and a terrible 2023/2024 winter that surely won’t be repeated, it could make ground quickly in the short-term too. 

Sauber, meanwhile, has had such a relentlessly terrible season so far there is little reason to hope for the same. It now has the slowest car on average – that’s what Audi is taking over. So competitively, the argument for going to Audi is weaker than it’s been since its F1 plans were made official in the summer of 2022. 

In 2025 and 2026, there is a real chance Williams will do better than Sauber and then Audi. Enough to give Sainz all he wants? No, probably not. But it might be better than many think. 

This is not a prediction of a 2014-esque Williams surge, but it is conceivable that Williams will have the best engine in F1 and have improved so much it can produce a chassis good enough to take advantage of that, regularly score points and maybe snipe for the odd headline result. 

That’s why even though Vowles is surely aware of the appeal the Audi will have to Sainz, he can genuinely be confident that Williams is making a legitimately good case in its own right.

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