Carlos Sainz to Red Bull rumours sent into overdrive after Helmut Marko Japanese GP handshake

Jamie Woodhouse
Carlos Sainz and Helmut Marko handshake ahead of the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix

Carlos Sainz and Helmut Marko handshake.

With Carlos Sainz on the lookout for a new home on the Formula 1 grid, a chat with Red Bull’s driver programme boss Helmut Marko, sealed with a handshake, has certainly got tongues wagging.

Sainz is the most recent grand prix victor in Formula 1 thanks to his dominant performance last time out in Melbourne, yet he is without a seat for next season as it stands due to Ferrari’s blockbuster acquisition of seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz and Helmut Marko shake hands in Japan

The next stop on the F1 2024 calendar has now arrived though as the teams and drivers descend on Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, where Sainz will be hoping to prove that Max Verstappen’s brake failure was not the sole reason for his victory opening in Melbourne. However, the Ferrari driver has already hit the headlines this race weekend.

That is because he was spotted having an all-smiles conversation with Marko in the paddock at Suzuka, with Sky Germany presenter Peter Hardenacke also getting in on the chat. What stood out though was the public handshake between Sainz and Marko. A standard sign of respect, or has something more official been agreed?

Helmut Marko and Carlos Sainz handshake in Japan
Helmut Marko and Carlos Sainz handshake

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Marko recently discussed the Sainz to Red Bull rumours, Sainz having made his Formula 1 debut as part of the Red Bull programme back in 2015 as Verstappen’s Toro Rosso team-mate.

And while Marko described Sainz’s form as “fascinating” after his Australian GP heroics, he also spoke of a strong possibility that Sergio Perez remains Verstappen’s team-mate in 2025, as long as he ups his game in qualifying.

“Of course, his form is fascinating,” Marko told Laola1 in reference to Sainz.

“But you have to realise that Checo [Perez] delivered three good races this year. The fact that he fell back so much in Melbourne was due to the damaged underbody and tyre degradation.

“His only weakness is in qualifying. If he can improve there, there’s no need to think about it. The atmosphere in the team is very good also as far as he is concerned.”

For a time it seemed as though Verstappen was the driver that Sainz could replace at Red Bull, with off-track unrest within the team sparking Verstappen to Mercedes speculation, though Verstappen has since confirmed his commitment to his Red Bull deal – which runs until the end of 2028 – amid a possible cooling of tensions in the Red Bull ranks.

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