Carlos Sainz Jr could be poised to make a surprise mid-season graduation to F1, after admitting that he has been in talks with the Caterham team.
The Leafield outfit came under new ownership ahead of the British Grand Prix, sparking suggestions that Japanese veteran Kamui Kobayashi – hired as much for his experience as the money he brought to the beleaguered squad – could be axed to make way for younger, better-funded talent. Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson occupies the second car, having brought sponsorship to the team, while Sainz Jr is the first name to appear as a potential replacement for Kobayashi.
The Red Bull junior told Spanish newspaper AS
that discussions had already taken place with Caterham – now being run by the combination of Colin Kolles and former F1 racer Christijan Albers – and there is a definite possibility that the 19-year old could step up to the top flight in the latter part of the current campaign.
"It is true that there have been talks and that we have spoken to them, but nothing is confirmed," Sainz Jr, the son of multiple WRC champion Carlos Sr, confirmed, "My goal remains the same: to be at Toro Rosso in the future, but if, to do that, I have to go to Caterham beforehand then I will happily go there.”
Sainz Jr currently leads that Formula Renault 3.5 standings, and is racing this weekend at the Nurburgring, but sees no reason why he cannot combine both his title push and taking his first steps as a member of the F1 grid. He got his first taste of the top flight during last year's Young Driver Test at Silverstone, and would welcome the chance to step up ahead of what he hopes could be a full-time campaign in 2015.
“It was possible to contest a race this year, but it is Red Bull which decides this,” he said, in deference to his primary backer, “They and Caterham must also have benefits and be convinced by the agreement.
"I have an amazing opportunity to win the Formula Renault 3.5 series and I am excited to be the first Red Bull driver to get this. I want to finish this season whatever happens."
Ironically, as reward for leading the FRenault 3.5 points at this stage of the season, Sainz Jr will partner Red Bull reserve Sebastien Buemi in demonstrating the Milton Keynes' team's machinery during intervals in the Nurburgring schedule this weekend.