The ‘A-plus’ driver Red Bull should target amid Max Verstappen exit talk

Henry Valantine
A side-profile shot of Max Verstappen with a prominent Red Bull logo alongside him

Max Verstappen has driven for Red Bull Racing since May 2016

Former McLaren and Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya believes Carlos Sainz would be the ‘A-plus’ driver Red Bull should look to if Max Verstappen decides to leave the team.

Sainz is out of contract with Ferrari at the end of the year and is known to be in discussions with multiple teams, but has not secured his next destination in Formula 1 yet as he assesses his options moving forward.

Juan Pablo Montoya: Red Bull should look to Carlos Sainz if Max Verstappen leaves

Verstappen and Sainz were team-mates together in their rookie season at Toro Rosso in 2015, and have both gone down their own separate career paths since then.

But with Sainz having been linked with a possible move to Red Bull, the Ferrari driver currently in peak form and up until Lando Norris’ win in Miami at the weekend was the only non-Red Bull driver since mid-2022 to score a Grand Prix victory, his name has cropped up in reports as a potential candidate to return to the Red Bull stable.

But in the short term, he will be moved aside at Ferrari for the arrival of Lewis Hamilton in 2025, and Montoya is ready to see how that fight pans out between the seven-time World Champion and Charles Leclerc next season.

“It will be interesting to see how smooth that goes with Charles and Lewis in the cars, to be honest,” Montoya told RacingNews365.

“There’s going to be a personality clash there. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

More on Red Bull’s driver choices for 2025

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

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

But on Verstappen, his future has been up for debate given the unsettled off-track goings-on at Red Bull, though his contract runs until 2028 and he has said he remains committed to the team.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has been circling in case the reigning World Champion does decide to change his scenery however, and if the unlikely situation does occur, for Montoya, there is a clear replacement in mind already.

“I think Carlos right now would be the best choice in my opinion, especially if there’s talk of Max leaving,” Montoya said.

“If they’re thinking about Max leaving, they need to have an A-plus driver as a back-up. You can’t have Checo and Max leave because then you have nothing.

“But right now he [Sainz] is doing the job. He’s doing what needs to be done. Could there be better drivers? Probably. But I think in the right situation, Carlos can be really good.”

Sainz currently sits fifth in the Drivers’ Championship on 83 points, despite having missed the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix through having an appendectomy.

Read next: Helmut Marko clears up Adrian Newey ‘misunderstanding’ with new next F1 team predicted