Red Bull shut door on Carlos Sainz – and send out message over Max Verstappen future

Carlos Sainz after finishing third in Monte Carlo

Carlos Sainz, who has lots his seat at Ferrari next season, will not be joining Red Bull – Clive Rose/Getty Images

Red Bull have shut the door on Carlos Sainz as a potential partner for Max Verstappen next season, with Sergio Pérez signing a new two-year contract extension which keeps the Mexican at the team until at least 2026.

In a press release announcing the news, the reigning champions stressed the importance of “continuity and stability” within the team, language which will be interpreted as a not-so-thinly-veiled message regarding the future of Verstappen himself, not to mention the tumult of the last five months in the wake of the controversy surrounding team principal Christian Horner.

Horner, 50, was accused earlier this year of controlling and coercive behaviour by a female colleague, triggering an internal investigation by Red Bull’s parent company in Austria. A specialist barrister was appointed to look into the claims and found in Horner’s favour, with Red Bull GmBH dismissing the claim. The employee in question was subsequently suspended, but has appealed the outcome of the investigation.

The furore not only placed huge pressure on Horner – with Verstappen’s father, Jos, calling publicly for the Englishman to resign – it also raised questions about Verstappen’s future.

The three-time world champion is under contract at Red Bull until 2028 but has been courted assiduously by Mercedes, who have held off naming a replacement for Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton partly to see whether they might be able to prise the world champion from Red Bull.

Sergio PerezSergio Perez

Sergio Perez has signed a new two-year deal to stay at Red Bull – Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

Hamilton’s defection to Ferrari to replace Sainz opened up the possibility of the Spaniard returning to the Red Bull family, having driven for sister team Toro Rosso from 2015-17. But if he does so now, it will be as Verstappen’s replacement.

Verstappen has so far played down talk of him leaving, saying in Miami last month that he was happy with Red Bull “at the moment” and stressing that for him the most important thing was team harmony and the competitiveness of the car.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about money for me,” the Dutch driver said. “I’m already very happy of course with what I’m having at the team. It’s really important about having the quickest car, and of course a good environment. That’s what we have currently, and that’s also what I asked for. As long as the environment is right and we have the quickest car, then it’s quite straightforward.”

“I know myself that if I will be driving for P5 or P6, you get quite grumpy with yourself. So, it’s always about performance at the end of the day. I mean, everyone knows that, Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] also knows that.”

2026 departure more likely should Verstappen wish to leave

It is thought that if Verstappen does eventually leave for Mercedes, he is far more likely to do so in 2026, when new technical regulations come into effect. That is realistically Mercedes’ next opportunity to be genuinely competitive, given how far behind they are at the moment. That said, there will be some interest in how Red Bull fare over the next month or two given the increased competitiveness of McLaren and Ferrari.

McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc have won two of the last three races, and while Verstappen still has a healthy lead in the drivers’ standings, the title race suddenly looks far more interesting. Red Bull will hope to show Verstappen and the world they are still the team to beat in Canada this weekend.

In the release regarding Pérez – who could qualify only 18th in Monaco last time out, before suffering a horrific opening lap crash – Red Bull noted that the Mexican, 34, enjoyed his most successful season in Formula One last year, finishing second in the drivers’ championship. It was the first time the team had ever achieved a one-two finish in the drivers’ championship.

Horner emphasised his desire to see the pairing continue together. “Continuity and stability are important for the team and Checo and Max are a successful and robust partnership, securing our first ever one-two finish for the Team in the Championship last year,” he said. “Checo has had a strong start to 2024 with second places in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Japan and then his podium in China. The past few races have been tough, there is convergence on the grid, but we are confident in Checo and look forward to his return to proven form and performance, that we so often see.

“Last year was a unicorn season and we will need to work hard to retain our titles, but we are assured in our line up and with the team as a whole, which is imperative in what is shaping up to be a close fought championship this year.”

Pérez, who has won five races since joining Red Bull in 2020, added: “I want to thank everyone for all the trust they are putting in me, it is a lot and I want to pay it back with excellent results on track, and off track. I think we have a lot of work to do, we have a lot more championships to win together.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.