Major stumbling block emerges for Carlos Sainz to Red Bull despite long-standing interest

Jamie Woodhouse
Carlos Sainz poses for Ferrari's 2024 studio shots with a prominent Red Bull badge alongside him

Could Carlos Sainz return to the Red Bull stable after losing his Ferrari seat to Lewis Hamilton?

While Carlos Sainz was catching the interest of Red Bull even before his Australian Grand Prix heroics according to leading F1 correspondent Lawrence Barretto, a decision on their 2025 line-up could come too late for the Spaniard.

Red Bull has an important decision to make on who serves as Max Verstappen’s team-mate from next year, with Sergio Perez in the role currently and looking to secure a new deal with his contract up at the end of F1 2024.

Carlos Sainz may need to decide F1 future before Red Bull

Meanwhile, Sainz is on the lookout for a new home on the F1 grid after Ferrari’s pre-season decision to sign Lewis Hamilton – at Sainz’s expense – for 2025, making Red Bull a potential prime target, especially after he wowed the paddock with a dominant victory last time out at the Australian Grand Prix.

However, while Barretto has been informed that Sainz was on Red Bull’s candidates list already before his dazzling Melbourne display, they are in no rush to find a Perez replacement, which means the timings ultimately may not match up for Sainz.

‘My sources say he was in contention at Red Bull even before the Australian Grand Prix weekend,’ Barretto wrote for the Formula 1 website.

‘However, the problem for Sainz is that Red Bull are in no rush to decide on a team-mate for Verstappen in 2025. It is believed they are happy to wait until the summer at the earliest – and that could be too long for Sainz to wait for fear of losing another project.

‘Red Bull are keen to give Sergio Perez time to prove he deserves to stay for a fifth season, especially given the Mexican has shown he can help the team win the Constructors’ Championship without causing Verstappen too much grief.’ recommends

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Ahead of the new season, Daniel Ricciardo, racing for Red Bull’s junior team, was seen as the prime contender to replace Perez for 2025, a move which while looking likely at that stage, is looking far less so now after three rounds of the season.

Ricciardo has so far been unable to match the performances of team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, sparking speculation that he could even lose his seat to Liam Lawson should he not improve, though Barretto claims Ricciardo is still a contender to return to Red Bull, an occurrence which the team has wanted since his comeback with their junior team last season.

‘They are also interested in bringing Daniel Ricciardo into the seat at some point, providing he performs at RB,’ Barretto stated.

‘Sources say this was the intention from the moment they put him in the Red Bull at the Silverstone tyre test last year and then placed him at AlphaTauri in place of Nyck de Vries.’

But like Ricciardo, Sainz also has experience of being Verstappen’s team-mate, the pair having arrived on the F1 grid at the same time as Red Bull prospects in 2015, competing for their development team then known as Toro Rosso.

Not since Ricciardo has a team-mate been able to lay a glove on Verstappen, which Barretto says would make joining Red Bull a risky move for Sainz, yet he proved in Australia that he can be the driver which Red Bull desires – one to pick up the scraps when Verstappen is not in the mix, as was the case at Albert Park due to a brake failure.

‘A move to Red Bull for Sainz is risky, as Red Bull have shown that if you have a bad run, the boot might not be far away, while Verstappen’s stature in the team could potentially limit his progress,’ Barretto writes.

‘However, he would likely have a car that would be capable of winning at every race weekend – and Sainz will back himself to get the better of Verstappen.

‘And Red Bull would get a driver who can deliver consistently. On Sundays like in Melbourne when Verstappen retires, they want the other driver to be able to win – not fail to make the podium, as was the case with Perez. Sainz, so far this year, is proving he can step up.’

Verstappen still leads the Drivers’ Championship despite that Melbourne DNF, though his lead over Sainz’s Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc is now down to four points.

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