Carlos Sainz to Red Bull doubt emerges with team ‘wrapped around Max Verstappen’s finger’

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?

Max Verstappen will not allow a driver like Carlos Sainz to join the Red Bull team which is “wrapped around his finger”, claims BBC F1 commentator Harry Benjamin.

While Verstappen’s current team-mate Sergio Perez has enjoyed an impressive start to the F1 2024 campaign, following Verstappen across the line in three Red Bull 1-2 finishes out of four races, the team are in no hurry to decide their 2025 driver plans, meaning Perez cannot afford to let up in his mission to secure a new contract.

Could Max Verstappen shut Red Bull door on Carlos Sainz?

Perez must also be aware of the threat posed by Sainz, the former Red Bull driver programme member who is impressing in a major way in his final season at Ferrari, having claimed a dominant win in Australia and two further podium results. Lewis Hamilton’s impending Ferrari move means Sainz is on the search for a new home on the F1 grid.

However, while speaking on the Chequered Flag podcast, before the Red Bull-linked Fernando Alonso signed a new Aston Martin deal, Benjamin cast doubt over the chances of either Alonso or Sainz being allowed to join Red Bull.

With Benjamin claiming that the Red Bull team is firmly built around Verstappen, he feels the three-time World Champion would sense “trouble” with either Spaniard, and so will not allow Red Bull to make Sainz his 2025 team-mate.

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“We’d all love to see two drivers fighting it out, [Ayrton] Senna, [Alain] Prost-style, and even [Nico] Rosberg, Hamilton-style most recently,” said Benjamin.

“That makes people rise up on the edge of their seat and it pushes drivers and teams to the absolute maximum. You get brilliant racing and a reason to tune in week in week out and you need that, especially when you’re adding more and more races throughout the season.

“The thing is though, Alonso, Carlos Sainz is on the market as well, are you going to put them alongside Verstappen? Is Verstappen going to stay in that team? Because if he does stay in that team, he does have a contract, he has been made their star driver.

“Everything they do is for him and for his benefit. He is that team, he’s got it wrapped around his finger. And the power that he and his father Jos Verstappen hold is massive.

“If you want to throw in a Carlos Sainz or a Fernando Alonso, I don’t think either of those drivers would want to settle for what Sergio Perez has done and be that number two driver. They’re too good to be a number two driver in my opinion.

“But they will cause trouble. Alonso certainly, Sainz, and don’t forget, he has got quite a large personality, with his father Carlos Sainz Sr.

“Sainz and Verstappen were team-mates at Toro Rosso when they both came into Formula 1 together, and there were fireworks between them then, and that was when they were racing over ninth and tenth. What’s it going to be like if they end up racing for a race win?

“I think Verstappen wouldn’t allow for another top a-list driver to come into that second seat.”

Verstappen is chasing his fourth successive World Championship in F1 2024, which would see him equal Sebastian Vettel’s title-winning run with Red Bull between 2010-13.

Read next: More Red Bull revelations as one driver ‘was’ offered Sergio Perez’s race seat