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Red Bull won’t bow to Audi F1 driver market pressure

Red Bull insists it will not rush its decision on who Max Verstappen’s team-mate will be next year, despite pressure it says Audi is putting on Formula 1’s driver market.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, and Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, leave the podium with their trophies

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The Milton Keynes-based team has a vacant slot for 2025 with Sergio Perez’s contract running out at the end of this season.

Perez has shown some improved potential this year and, off the back of finishing runner-up to Verstappen in the Japanese Grand Prix, he currently lies second in the drivers’ standings.

But Red Bull still wants to see if Perez can keep up this form long term, having started last season in similarly good shape before he endured a mid-year slump that prompted questions about his future.

PLUS: The three factors behind Verstappen overturning Perez's real Suzuka advantage

The squad has plenty of options available should it decide that it does not want to continue with Perez, as there are a host of leading drivers that are not yet locked down.

One avenue could be to keep things internal and promote Yuki Tsunoda from RB, with the Japanese youngster having delivered a strong start to the season that included a top 10 finish in his home race at Suzuka.

Autosport understands, however, that Red Bull is also evaluating other more experienced candidates.

Alex Albon is on its shortlist, but he is out of reach for 2025 because he is locked down to a contract with Williams, so would need to be bought out. As revealed earlier this year, Red Bull has asked for a first-refusal option on his services for 2026.

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz is, however, a more serious candidate, with his race-winning form and impressive technical capabilities making him a no-brainer choice if Red Bull thinks it needs to do something different.

But the Sainz situation is complicated by the fact that Red Bull is not the only team that the Spaniard has options with.

Sources have revealed that factions within Aston Martin want him to join the Silverstone outfit for 2025 alongside Lance Stroll and lead it into the new F1 rules era from 2026, rather than continue with Fernando Alonso.

And then F1’s newest manufacturer Audi is also on the hunt for the drivers it wants for its entry in 2026, with Sainz having been one of its obvious targets for a while now.

Audi’s push to get its drivers in place as early as next year means that those who have options there may not be able to wait too long, and this means that they may have to lay down a deadline for Red Bull to make its call.

Red Bull insists that it is unmoved by what other teams want though, and says that it will take all the time it needs to ensure it has the strongest driver pairing for 2025.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, 3rd position, in the Press Conference

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, 3rd position, in the Press Conference

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Speaking exclusively to Autosport about the situation, Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko said: “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.”

While Red Bull is happy to wait until the summer, Perez thinks it will kick into action much sooner, with it anticipated that the first driver market moves could come imminently.

“I am pretty relaxed about it,” he told Sky Sports F1. “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.”

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the second seat was very much in Perez’s hands, especially if he continues delivering.

“He needs to just keep doing what he's doing,” explained Horner. “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 has the priority, and it is going to be a few more races yet before we start to think about next year.”

Watch: F1 2024 Japanese Grand Prix Review – Normal Service Resumed

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