Sainz to replace Alonso at McLaren next year

(Reuters) - Carlos Sainz has signed a multi-year deal to replace Fernando Alonso at McLaren from the 2019 Formula One season, the team confirmed on Thursday.

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Double world champion Alonso announced his retirement from the sport on Tuesday, ending months of speculation about his future.

Sainz will enter his fifth season of Formula 1 when he joins the McLaren team next year.

The 23-year-old Spaniard, currently on loan at Renault from Red Bull, sits 11th in the drivers’ championship standings with Renault.

“I’m delighted to finally be able to confirm that I’ll be a McLaren driver from the 2019 season,” Sainz said in a statement.

“It’s something I’ve been looking at for a while and I’m very excited about this next chapter in my career.

“Fernando is of course one of them, so it’s particularly special that I’ll be taking his seat as part of the next generation of Spanish racing drivers behind the wheel of a McLaren.”

It is not clear who will be Sainz’ team mate at McLaren next season, though current driver Stoffel Vandoorne and British youngster Lando Norris are favourites for the seat.

McLaren chief Zak Brown executive said Sainz, who began his Formula One career with Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso, would bring a lot of racing experience to the role.

“We’ve been assessing him for some time now and rate him very highly among the next generation of young talent emerging through the ranks in Formula One,” he said.

“Although he’s just 23, he’ll be starting his fifth season in the sport with us and will bring with him a huge amount of racing experience, both in Formula One and with our partner Renault.”

With Daniel Ricciardo joining Renault next season, French youngster Pierre Gasly, currently at Toro Rosso, is now a clear frontrunner to take the vacant Red Bull seat.

Mclaren said they would announce their full driver lineup for next season “in due course”.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Christian Radnedge