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Carlos Sainz

This driver would be Verstappen's ideal Red Bull team-mate

Carlos Sainz is looking for a new drive in 2025 and has previous ties to Red Bull who really should consider him as a replacement if Sergio Perez's time comes to an end.

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Analysis
To news overview © XPBimages

First things first, if Sergio Perez continues the form he has shown in the first two races of the 2024 season, there is every chance Red Bull will decide to keep him on for 2025.

All the team need him to do is follow in behind team leader Max Verstappen and be in a position to scoop up a win should something happen to the Dutchman who, all things being equal, should be finishing ahead.

During late 2023 when Perez's form nosedived as his confidence took a battering, Team Principal Christian Horner offered instructions to his beleaguered driver.

"I think we really need to sit down with Checo because we know what he's capable of and he's not hitting that form at the moment," Horner said after a dreadful weekend in Qatar where Perez crashed in the Sprint and was only 10th in the race.

"We desperately need him to find that form to keep this second place in the championship."

Last season was a brutal reality check for Perez as he saw his dreams of fighting for the world championship crushed as he came up against the unstoppable force of Verstappen. It was the same for Rubens Barrichello with Michael Schumacher at Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.

In other words, and no doubt Perez would disagree, but he is effectively a number two driver capable of scoring the odd win here and there, but not a title contender when going up against one of the sport's greats in the other car.

The Mexican has at least come out strong in the first two races of this year, with a pair of second-place finishes behind Verstappen.

But let's play Devil's Advocate and say he either opts to retire or Red Bull elects to make a change for 2025.

Daniel Ricciardo is clear that he wants to make a return to the Red Bull seat he should never have left in 2018 whilst Yuki Tsunoda also fancies his chances.

But there is one free agent on the market for 2025 that Red Bull should really be looking at and placing at the top of its shopping list - Carlos Sainz.

The pros for Sainz

Sainz found himself looking for a new drive for next season after Ferrari swooped for Hamilton.

If the likes of Hamilton, Leclerc and Verstappen are the 'level one elites', then Sainz is a level 1.5. He is a tenacious worker who likes to engineer his way out of problems and is capable of taking the fight multiple times a season to rivals.

Leclerc is widely regarded as the fastest driver over a single lap in F1, but Sainz is well-matched, even if the qualifying head-to-head in 2023 was 15-7 in the Monégasque's favour. The average deficit last year was 0.058s, far closer than the 0.495s chasm between Perez and Verstappen.

Sainz's major rivals for the seat in Ricciardo and Tsunoda have major question marks over them.

We are still waiting to see if Ricciardo has what it takes to operate at the sharp end in the white-hot environment of the head of the field - 1980 champion Alan Jones has made clear that he feels his fellow Australian's best days are behind him.

Tsunoda's temperament, meanwhile, has been called into question after his actions during the Bahrain GP when asked to let Ricciardo through by RB. It was not the way to act when there is a Red Bull seat potentially on the table.

In Sainz's case, if Red Bull does opt to make a change, he is the candidate with the fewest question marks against him.

If Verstappen does leave Red Bull, Sainz would be the type of driver Red Bull would be looking to plug in - with Lando Norris the other.

The Spaniard turns 31 in 2025, and so has the necessary experience for the major 2026 power unit overhaul to be moulded around him.

Sainz would also come with a wealth of Ferrari knowledge that Red Bull could use to its advantage, whilst he also operates on a high level that would easily meet the requirements set by Red Bull in its second seat, which is something of a poisoned chalice.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The cons

But on the flip side, there are factors that could weigh against his bid.

Firstly, back in the Toro Rosso days, senior Red Bull management was unimpressed by how he wrangled for a loan move to Renault in 2018, as the thought of a fourth season at the junior squad did not appeal.

There were also considerable tensions alongside Verstappen in 2015 and the four races they shared in early 2016 before Verstappen's promotion.

It is important to note that Sainz out-qualified Verstappen during their time together, although reliability failures skewered races towards the Dutchman.

Pertinently, Verstappen is also firmly established as the top dog at Red Bull, and Sainz fancies himself as a number one driver and focus of a project - hence why Audi or Aston Martin could be better options.

But with nearly a decade of experience behind them, the duo should be able to let the past stay there and work together in what is expected to still be the class-leading car in 2025 should Perez's four-year stay in Milton Keynes come to an end.

Who do you think will be Max Verstappen's team-mate in 2025? Let us know by voting in the poll below and in the comments!

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