Ferrari acted quickly to identify a replacement for Vettel, sources told Motorsport.com that an agreement has been reached with the current McLaren Sainz driver.
An announcement is expected from Ferrari in the coming days confirming that Sainz will be Charles Leclerc’s new teammate from 2021.
This will mark a step towards a leading team for Sainz, 25, who impressed in his first season with McLaren in 2019, marking the team’s first podium in nearly six years at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
McLaren had already started early discussions with Sainz about extending his current contract, which was set to expire at the end of the year.
But the British team is now facing a change in composition for 2021 as Sainz moves to Ferrari, Vettel and current Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo being linked to a move.
Ricciardo was expected to spark interest from Ferrari to replace Vettel, but it is now understood that he is in the process of moving to McLaren.
By completing its 2021 lineup with Sainz and Leclerc, Ferrari will also end all speculation that Lewis Hamilton may make a shock change to Mercedes for next year.
It would also close a possible option for Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who will have to focus on keeping his seat with Mercedes to stay ahead of the grid.
The transition from Sainz to Ferrari will be the last big step in a career path that has accelerated rapidly since his exit from Toro Rosso in late 2017.
A product of Red Bull’s junior program, Sainz won the Formula Renault 3.5 title in 2014 before moving on to F1 the following year, in partnership with Max Verstappen.
Sainz played during his time at Toro Rosso, leading the team after Verstappen’s sudden promotion to Red Bull in early 2016, and was signed by Renault with four races remaining in the 2017 campaign.
Sainz spent 2018 with Renault before joining McLaren after Ricciardo’s arrival at Enstone, signing a multi-year contract for the first time in his career.
In addition to forging a close relationship with rookie teammate Lando Norris off track, Sainz managed to impress at the wheel by finishing sixth in the championship, leading the midfield drivers.
He also led McLaren to fourth place in the constructors’ championship, his best finish since 2012.