McLaren's Carlos Sainz is set to be announced as Sebastian Vettel's replacement at Ferrari for 2021, multiple sources have told ESPN.
On Tuesday, four-time world champion Vettel and Ferrari confirmed there will be no extension of the German's existing deal, which runs until the end of the 2020 season. Sainz and Renault's Daniel Ricciardo appeared to be the front-runners for the vacant seat, and Ferrari has moved swiftly to sign the former.
ESPN understands Sainz's deal is all but completed. Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the move will be confirmed as early as Thursday.
The move opens the door for Ricciardo to take Sainz's place at McLaren when his contract expires with Renault at the end of 2020.
Sainz, the son of the two-time World Rally Championship winner of the same name, enjoyed a breakout year last season with McLaren, securing his first F1 podium finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Moving to Ferrari will place Sainz alongside Charles Leclerc, who signed a contract extension until 2024 earlier this year.
While the popular Ricciardo, who has Italian ancestry and is one of the grid's most marketable stars, seemed like a logical choice for Ferrari, in McLaren he would join a team on an upward trajectory. McLaren is set to use Mercedes' engines from 2021 onward.
As for Vettel, retirement still appears the most likely option. Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko told Motorsport.com the team cannot afford "two V's," referring to existing driver Max Verstappen, seemingly ruling out a move for the man who remains the most successful product of the Austrian company's driver programme.
Every indication is that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton will agree to a contract extension beyond 2020.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said his priority is to retain his existing stable of drivers, including Hamilton's current teammate Valtteri Bottas and on-loan Williams driver George Russell, although he did not completely rule out any move for Vettel.
"Sebastian is a great driver, a major personality and an asset to any Formula One team," Wolff said on Tuesday. "When looking to the future, our first loyalty lies with the current Mercedes drivers.
"But naturally we must take this development [of Vettel's contract] into consideration."
However, given Mercedes' investment into the career of Russell and how well Hamilton has fared in a harmonious teammate relationship with Bottas since 2017, it is hard to imagine Wolff doing anything to upset that balance by signing one of the reigning world champion's biggest rivals.