While Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo compete for a 2025 Red Bull slot, it appears that it is more than a head-to-head struggle.
Perez understands why he would be anxious to keep his seat at Red Bull until his current contract expires in 2024; this is a team that has won all 12 grands prix so far in F1 2023 as they rewrite the history books of Formula One dominance.
However, Perez has only supplied two of those, with reigning World Champion teammate Max Verstappen registering ten as he pursues a third title in as many seasons.
Drivers line up for a chance to race in Red Bull machinery.
Perez already knows he has competition for his seat in the form of Ricciardo, who is using his time with junior team AlphaTauri as an audition for a return to the main team, but Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has revealed that they are not alone in the fight for a spot in the 2025 lineup.
“It’s just the position that we’re in, it’s great to have a lot of interest,” Horner explained to Sky Sports News.
“And it’s not just from those drivers [Perez and Ricciardo]; it’s also from drivers outside our range in terms of 2025.”
Red Bull will almost certainly have been inundated with CVs from drivers all over the world seeking for a chance to race for the team, but Horner’s allegation begs the question of who else from the current Formula 1 grid could be in the running.
We then came up with five potential candidates to partner Verstappen at Red Bull starting in 2025…
Charles Leclerc, a five-time F1 race winner and 20-time polesitter, has consistently indicated his intention to stay with Ferrari, the team he came through the academy ranks to join, but while his vision for the future is clear, Ferrari threatens to drastically complicate it.
Leclerc’s Ferrari contract expires at the conclusion of F1 2024, and he recently revealed that, with talks about an extension still to begin, he does not yet know how Ferrari sees him fitting into their future plans, and thus he cannot dismiss speculations tying him to a move away.
Mercedes and Aston Martin have been the most frequently mentioned teams, but could Red Bull be tempted to pounce and capture Leclerc’s services, given that he is unlikely to be available again for some time as one of Formula One’s brightest prospects?
Verstappen and Leclerc threatened a title fight in the early stages of 2022, but Ferrari were unable to deliver the machinery to keep Leclerc in the fight, so watching Verstappen and Leclerc go head-to-head as Red Bull team-mates would be extremely intriguing indeed!
Perhaps Red Bull will turn to Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz for 2025?
Sainz, like Leclerc, is not under contract with Ferrari beyond 2024, and the Spaniard has continually attempted to dispel rumors tying him to Audi, which will enter F1 in conjunction with Sauber in 2026.
Sainz is familiar with the Red Bull setup, having transitioned from the Junior Team to Toro Rosso at the same time as Verstappen in 2015, and he appears to be a driver who could better fit the bill for what Red Bull is looking for: a good second driver to hoover up podium places and the occasional win.
Lando Norris has been the McLaren driver connected to Red Bull for numerous years, the Brit a prior target for the team, but now his rookie teammate Oscar Piastri may be the more tempting choice for Red Bull.
While Norris is under contract at McLaren until the end of 2025, Piastri, like Leclerc and Sainz, is out of contract at the end of 2024, and thus represents another fascinating prospect who is currently on the market.
Piastri, who finished second in the Belgian sprint after running Verstappen incredibly close in the pole battle, is demonstrating why he is so highly regarded in his debut year, and why McLaren went to the expense of canceling Ricciardo’s contract to bring him on board.
As Piastri and his management, former Red Bull driver Mark Webber, shown with their move to McLaren, they are not afraid to upset the status quo in order to get what they regard as the greatest offer for the young Australian, which may not be a Red Bull drive.
Following numerous good stand-in performances for Racing Point/Aston Martin, Haas opted to give Nico Hulkenberg his first full-time driving since 2019. And he’s repaying their trust.
Qualifying P2 in Canada was without a doubt the season’s pinnacle for a driver who is now being linked to Red Bull.
Hulkenberg was observed entering Red Bull hospitality at Spa-Francorchamps following the Belgian Grand Prix, not long after team advisor Helmut Marko hailed him as the ideal Verstappen teammate over one lap.
Is he there because he was taking Verstappen’s private plane back to Monaco, or is there more to this story? The pair get along well, making Hulkenberg a Red Bull acquisition who would, critically, get along with Verstappen.
Alex Albon has also been suggested as a potential Red Bull target, owing to the multiple compliments offered by Horner and Marko for his performances with Williams.
Albon bears the scars of a failed Red Bull stint, having lost his seat at the end of 2020 after a difficult season and a half with Verstappen, but the Thai driver has rebuilt his career at Williams and is now thriving, scoring a new best-ever result with the team of P7 at the 2023 Canadian GP.
Pierre Gasly is possible proof that Red Bull is hesitant to give a driver once burnt by Verstappen another chance, but Albon is doing nothing to hurt his prospects of a recall, with the appeal of being a Red Bull graduate tipping the scales in his favor.