Helmut Marko points the finger at Audi for ‘ridiculous’ F1 2025 driver market situation

Thomas Maher
Helmut Marko, Red Bull, and Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, at the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

Helmut Marko and Carlos Sainz were spotted together on multiple occasions at Suzuka.

Helmut Marko has insisted the pressure Audi are exerting on the F1 driver market in 2024 is not something Red Bull will cave in to.

Red Bull have a few unconfirmed cockpits across both teams for 2025, but Marko says the pressure being applied in the driver market by the pending arrival of Audi won’t force them to change tack.

Helmut Marko: Driver market games are ridiculous

At Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez’s contract comes to an end at the conclusion of 2024, meaning a potentially vacant seat alongside Max Verstappen next season if the team opts for change.

At RB, meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda are under pressure to retain their seats – Ricciardo more so than Tsunoda after the opening races of the season – with Kiwi racer Liam Lawson keeping a watching brief in the background.

With half the grid unconfirmed for next season, the arrival of Audi in 2026 is playing a part in the driver market – some drivers are likely chasing short contracts in order to keep options open for that season.

Speaking to Motorsport.com in Japan, Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko addressed the situation: “The driver market has exploded in April and, normally, no one talks [about it] in April.

“It is ridiculous, but we won’t jump into this game ourselves. We will wait and see, and only then make the best choice later on.

“I don’t know what is going on. I have heard that Audi is making pressure, but it is a little bit strange for a newcomer to make pressure on the driver market.”

Marko himself sparked further rumours in the driver market in Japan, as he was pictured conversing and shaking hands with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – the Spaniard being the most high-profile free agent on the market at the moment.

Marko revealed it would be remiss of Red Bull not to at least consider the Australian GP winner, the man Christian Horner has branded the team’s “nemesis” as the only driver other than Verstappen and Perez to taste victory since the start of 2023.

“Sainz came into Formula 1 through Red Bull and also had a very good year back then at Toro Rosso. Sainz is certainly a name to consider,” Marko said.

“Normally we don’t talk about driver decisions at all in April, but somehow the whole thing seems to have moved forward a lot.

“But it’s still too early for us, we will certainly wait some time before we make a decision.”

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Perez has had a strong start to the season and may be an attractive proposition for another team – the Mexican driver making it clear he wants clarity on his future as soon as possible.

“I am pretty relaxed about it,” he told Sky. “It is my 14th season in F1 and whatever comes next, I am already really pleased with what I have done in the sport so far. I believe it will be a matter of time.

“Obviously the driver market is moving and in the next few weeks, there are going to be a lot of movements for sure. So, I expect within a month to really know what I am doing next year.”

But all the signs are good that Perez could retain his seat at Red Bull, with the pressures of 2023 fading with every race as he keeps up his strong form.

Perez explained in Japan that he has “stopped inventing” when it comes to experimenting with car setups while chasing perfection, and is less lost when it comes to getting the best from his side of the garage.

Having secured three second-place finishes to go alongside his aero-compromised fifth-place in Australia, Christian Horner said Perez is priority one for the second Red Bull seat.

“He needs to just keep doing what he’s doing,” Horner told the media on Sunday evening.

“The whole driver market seems to be very early this year that everybody seems to be rushing around, and we’re only four races into the year.

“We’re not in a huge rush. And, obviously, there’s a significant amount of interest in our cars, as you would expect. But Checo [Perez] has the priority, and it is going to be a few more races yet before we start to think about next year.”

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