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Red Bull says it can't match "very lucrative" Audi F1 offer to Sainz

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko says Carlos Sainz has "a very lucrative offer from Audi that we can't match or beat" in negotiations over the Spaniard's Formula 1 future post-2024.

Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing and Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, arriving in the paddock

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Sainz and his management have been engaged in discussions with every F1 team that has a viable opening for next season when he will be replaced at Ferrari by Lewis Hamilton.

This selection is headlined by the possibility of Sainz going to Red Bull as a replacement for Sergio Perez or if Max Verstappen makes a shock choice to leave F1's current best squad as a result of the ongoing Red Bull management war and the Christian Horner scandal.

Red Bull, via Marko, was publicly courting the Sainz camp at Suzuka last time out and there Marko also claimed "Audi is making pressure" on the 2025 driver market.

This follows the long-held understanding that Audi had been eyeing signing Sainz ahead of its F1 entry in 2026 with its Sauber takeover, as the 29-year-old already had links to the manufacturer through his father's Dakar Rally outings in its RS Q e-tron machinery since 2022, including victory in the 2024 event.

But ahead of this weekend's returning Chinese Grand Prix, Marko added another intriguing element to the most high-profile confirmed 2025 driver contract saga so far early in this silly season.

In an interview with Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung, Marko said of Sainz: "We're talking to him, he's having his strongest season in F1, but he has a very lucrative offer from Audi that we can't match or beat.

Liam Lawson, Reserve Driver, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team, with Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing, Peter Bayer, CEO, RB F1 Team

Liam Lawson, Reserve Driver, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team, with Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing, Peter Bayer, CEO, RB F1 Team

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

"But we know him from the Toro Rosso days, even back then he drove with Max [in 2015 and early 2016].

"But it really hurt him back then when we backed Verstappen at Red Bull and not him."

The final line is a reference to Red Bull rapidly promoting Verstappen to its senior team in early 2016, with Sainz going on to leave the Red Bull fold for Renault late in the 2017 campaign – something the now Ferrari driver pushed for.

Elsewhere in the interview, Marko revealed that Verstappen publicly backing him during the various twists in the Red Bull management war early in 2024 had been "a really big sign of loyalty" that he "absolutely don't take for granted, especially in this day and age".

Marko also sought to clarify recent rumours regarding the driver line-up at RB given Daniel Ricciardo's poor start to the campaign and his successful 2023 injury replacement, Liam Lawson, still without a full-time F1 drive.

Regarding reports of a possible Ricciardo/Lawson in-season swap that have emerged in the New Zealand and Italian press in recent weeks, Marko said: “With Liam Lawson as a reserve driver, we obviously have a strong driver in the team who is contractually entitled to drive for another team if he doesn't get a cockpit with us in 2025,” he continued.

“In this respect, it would of course be exciting for us if we could see him in Formula 1 this year to get an even clearer picture.

“But it's a complex issue, so we'll have to see how things progress.”

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