Red Bull’s 2025 shortlist: Six drivers who should be on list to partner Max Verstappen

Thomas Maher
Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz are likely candidates for Red Bull seats in 2025, if Sergio Perez isn't renewed...

If Red Bull does decide to cut ties with Sergio Perez for 2025, who are the leading candidates to replace the Mexican driver?

Sergio Perez’s contract comes to an end at the conclusion of the 2024 season and, if Red Bull chooses to replace him, who are the likely names at the top of the list to step in alongside Max Verstappen?

Sergio Perez remains the leading candidate to remain

As it stands, Perez is doing what he needs to do to retain his seat in 2025. The Mexican finished in second place to Verstappen at the first two races and fared well in Australia until he picked up a grid penalty for blocking Nico Hulkenberg in Q1.

Unlike many races where he’s lost his head trying to recover, Perez put in a quietly solid race to fifth place – unable to make progress due to a tear-off strip from Fernando Alonso getting stuck in his floor and sapping his car of downforce.

With Helmut Marko saying that “Sergio didn’t drive a bad race, on the contrary”, Horner has also said it’s “too early in the year” to be talking about the second Red Bull seat.

The signs are good that Perez has mentally reset from his troubled 2023 and, if he can unlock some consistency, there’s no reason for Red Bull to even think about looking elsewhere – unless the time to find a Verstappen successor is getting nearer…

Carlos Sainz now the dark horse for a Red Bull revitalisation?

The only man to defeat Red Bull in a race since the end of 2022, Carlos Sainz has found himself down at the jobs centre trying to find a new drive for 2025 – a pretty unfair situation for the Spaniard to have found himself in, given how well he’s been driving over the past 12 months.

But the man Christian Horner has now jokingly labelled as Red Bull’s “nemesis” does indeed find himself unemployed, but could the Spaniard be the leading contender to replace Perez?

After all, there are few doubts over the consistency Sainz is capable of, or that he’s capable of stepping up to the plate when needed.

It’s worth remembering that Sainz already has an extensive history with Red Bull, having climbed through the ranks of the junior categories with their backing. But reported politics between Carlos and Max’s respective fathers while the pair raced together (quite evenly matched!) at Toro Rosso in 2015 resulted in tensions rising.

With Sainz now an established frontrunner in his own right, how fun would a rematch between Verstappen and Sainz at the main Red Bull team be to watch?

Fernando Alonso for a last hurrah?

With age now firmly against him, despite his insistence that he’s got years left in him, Alonso still has what it takes in the short term to bring home wins and perhaps even a championship.

With his contract at Aston Martin ending at the same time as Perez’s at Red Bull, there’s nothing – in theory – to stop Alonso from joining Red Bull, if the Milton Keynes-based squad were so inclined.

But, unless Red Bull fancy annoying Verstappen with a driver who likes having a team focused around him as well, the Spaniard might not make as much sense as the likes of Sainz or an internal promotion might.

Reports in the German media on Monday suggested Christian Horner has his eyes firmly set on Alonso for 2025, but other reports suggest those same suggestions have been planted by Alonso’s camp on his behalf in a bid to raise his market value.

In the right circumstances, Alonso makes a lot of sense, but are those right circumstances in place? It doesn’t seem as likely, not while Verstappen remains in place.

Yuki Tsunoda the most likely internal promotion?

With Red Bull’s driver programme producing some top-level talent over the years, the obvious route after the external hire that was Sergio Perez would be to take a punt on one of their home-grown talents.

Having not taken a chance on one since Alex Albon, that Yuki Tsunoda is slowly coming out on top of his intra-team battle with Daniel Ricciardo will make him the leading candidate – particularly as the Japanese driver has been given an unprecedented fourth year at the junior team in which to hone his skills.

Tsunoda, by all accounts, was fortunate to weather the winter as Honda allegedly had to lend their support to him in order to secure his seat, but Tsunoda has justified it by being a clear step ahead of Ricciardo since the season started.

With all eyes on the RB ‘shoot-out’ to see whether or not either gets the seat, Tsunoda coming out on top in the battle will promote him to the top of the queue – way ahead of Ricciardo.

With Tsunoda’s seventh-place finish in Melbourne promoting RB to sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, Tsunoda has earned the praise of Helmut Marko.

“Every lap he was competitive and didn’t do anything wrong, he was calm,” Marko told

But he was reluctant to say that Tsunoda is leading the charge if Perez is replaced: “As we say, one swallow does not make a summer. So, he has to improve more before he can be considered in this direction.”

Liam Lawson if Red Bull takes a major risk

Liam Lawson was unlucky not to land a seat for 2024, having impressed mightily during his five-race stint with the former AlphaTauri squad last year.

While Lawson has the backing of Helmut Marko, who still says he needs more races to see what he’s truly capable of, the Kiwi remains a distant outsider for a race seat with the big team.

With no racing plans in 2024, the Red Bull reserve has no chance to tilt the scales in his favour until he gets back into a racing car – and that’s far more likely to be with RB than the senior team.

Lawson may get his chance before season end, particularly if the axe falls on the struggling Ricciardo over the summer – as Red Bull has done in the past with underperforming drivers – but there’s little chance of him doing enough this year to be considered a realistic proposition for next year.

What about a left-field choice… like Nico Hulkenberg?

Unless Red Bull is aiming to build for their future with a prodigious talent that could succeed Verstappen, a hiring similar to what was aimed for with Perez could be an avenue the team turns to again.

To that end, hiring a solid midfield driver who can bank points, maximise results, but not prove a thorn in Max’s side does make sense – and who better for that role than Nico Hulkenberg?

Since his return to F1 last year, Hulkenberg has consistently had the edge over Kevin Magnussen and his talents are crying out for a more competitive car. Given he’s been through most of the midfield teams during his 10+ years in F1, a last hurrah of banking those elusive podiums would be a very nice way for Hulkenberg to sign off on his career, and likely give Red Bull the exact type of dependability they require.

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