Carlos Sainz and Red Bull plot twist emerges with Christian Horner ‘clear winner’

Jamie Woodhouse
Carlos Sainz and Christian Horner with a Red Bull badge between.

Carlos Sainz and Christian Horner.

The Red Bull point of contact for Carlos Sainz changed from Helmut Marko to Christian Horner, according to Sky F1’s Craig Slater, who pondered whether this means that Horner emerged the winner from Red Bull’s off track unrest.

Another major piece of F1 driver market business is complete with Perez having put pen to paper on a new two-year contract to remain with Red Bull, a deal which will take him into the new regulatory era with the team come 2026.

Did Carlos Sainz Red Bull talks highlight internal change?

Perez faced competition from departing Ferrari star Carlos Sainz, who had made himself a contender to return to the Red Bull fold with a string of impressive performances to start the F1 2024 campaign, including taking the win in Australia upon his return from appendicitis.

However, Slater revealed that the Red Bull point of contact for Sainz changed from Marko – the team’s senior advisor and driver programme boss – to team principal Horner, which Slater linked to the saga which dominated the headlines for Red Bull at the start of F1 2024, posing the question of whether this Sainz situation shows that Horner “emerged as the winner”.

“This was a very much desired seat in Formula 1 and even speaking to people in the office when I got the news, there was a bit of disappointment that Carlos Sainz is not going to be opposite Max Verstappen,” said Slater.

“He had been holding out for this seat. My understanding from his representatives was it had been hot and cold, hot and cold over the last few months. Red Bull seemed interested, then they were a bit more detached again.

“Interestingly, the point of contact Sainz’s negotiators had with Red Bull changed from Dr Helmut Marko to Christian Horner himself.

“Now, is that a sign potentially, that if there had been this internal power struggle at Red Bull, that Christian Horner has clearly emerged as the winner here?

“Checo Perez, amongst other things, had been staunchly loyal to Christian Horner through all his issues at the start of this year. I think it certainly is a Christian Horner choice, that is clear.

“Maybe if Dr Marko had had the casting vote here, might someone else have been in that seat opposite Verstappen? Who knows. But continuity it is.”

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With a fresh prime target seat having been taken off the table for Sainz, who understands is also out of contention for the Mercedes F1 2025 seat for now, the Spaniard said that he has not set any deadlines on confirming his post-Ferrari destination and wants to make a considered choice.

Speaking to media including, Sainz said: “I think everyone depends on everyone [in the driver market]. Formula 1 is a circle.

“I haven’t made my mind up yet and I don’t know I’m going to be racing next year. I also haven’t set any deadlines.

“I can establish that such it’s an important decision at this stage of my career that when I have options on the table I want to take the right one and think about it carefully because I’m about to turn 30 this year and I want to make the next project work and see how it goes.

“I’m going to give myself as much time as I need.”

Sainz has also been linked with the likes of Williams and Sauber, which will become Audi in 2026.

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