Helmut Marko addresses Carlos Sainz rumours with key Red Bull contender ruled out

Oliver Harden
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?

Helmut Marko has played down rumours of a move for Carlos Sainz, claiming the outgoing Ferrari driver will want his future resolved before Red Bull decide on Max Verstappen’s team-mate for F1 2025.

Sainz currently finds himself without a seat for the 2025 season, having been the biggest loser of Lewis Hamilton’s shock decision to leave Mercedes for Ferrari.

The two-time grand prix winner is likely to attract much interest in his services for 2025, with Sainz frequently linked with Audi – set to take over the existing Sauber team in 2026 – over the last 12 months.

Would Carlos Sainz be a good fit alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull?

With Sergio Perez’s current contract due to expire at the end of 2024, a return to the Red Bull stable is also theoretically possible for Sainz, who began his F1 career as Verstappen’s Toro Rosso team-mate in 2015.

Reports earlier this month claimed Red Bull had offered a first-refusal option to Alex Albon with a view to re-signing the Williams driver – who spent a challenging 18-month spell as Verstappen’s team-mate in 2019/20 before making way for Perez – on a three-year contract in 2026.

Speaking to Austrian publication Kleine Zeitung ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Marko has ruled out making a move for Albon before 2026 – and believes Red Bull’s timeline will not align with that of Sainz, claiming the team will aim to finalise their lineup “after the summer break.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 2024 driver salaries revealed: Who are the highest-paid drivers on the grid?

F1 driver contracts: What is the contract status of every driver on the 2024 grid?

He said: “Albon is not an issue for us, he has a contract until 2025. And Sainz probably wants to make a decision sooner than we do.”

Marko has not ruled out an extension for Perez, who has claimed five of his six career wins in Red Bull colours since arriving in Milton Keynes in 2021.

Perez enjoyed his best-ever start to a season in 2023, winning two of the opening four races in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan but faded alarmingly as Verstappen eased to a third consecutive title.

Marko sees consistency as the key to Perez’s hopes of securing a new contract, adding: “Checo has to perform consistently.

“It’s clear that he can’t always drive at Verstappen level. If he finishes second in the World Championship and wins one or two races, he will certainly be an option for 2025.”

Read next: The six biggest F1 mysteries to start solving at the Bahrain Grand Prix