Red Bull‘s recruitment of Sergio Perez was the latest in the team’s endeavor to find a suitable partner for Max Verstappen—one who could help secure enough podium finishes to secure the coveted constructors’ championship for the Milton Keynes team. However, junior drivers Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon fell short in their short-lived F1 careers. Fortunately, Perez, with his extensive experience, has pulled his weight, securing five out of his six career victories within his first three years at Red Bull.
The onset of 2023 saw Perez’s aim of contending for the championship alongside Verstappen rekindle, but Verstappen took the wind out of Perez’s sails by winning an unprecedented ten races back-to-back. Notwithstanding his contract with Red Bull ending in 2024, Perez hinted in an interview with Spanish rights-holder DAZN that he may not renew his deal, as he foresaw Red Bull‘s car design continually revolving around his teammate.
Perez stated, “With the season we’ve had it’s important in the next few races that I also want to be in an environment in which I feel like I can contribute. And if that place in 2024 isn’t here we have to look for other alternatives. But right now my main focus is being here, winning more races, continuing to win championships with Red Bull. I have a contract until next year, so some time next year we will sit down and talk.”
Signing Perez, however, isn’t a foregone conclusion for Red Bull, which is perpetually on the lookout for a better replacement for its second seat. The team’s chief, Christian Horner, at the Italian Grand Prix mentioned, “In ’25 we have one seat open and, as you can imagine, there’s not a shortage of interest in that seat.”
Come 2026, when radical regulation changes will be introduced, the leading drivers are ideally placed to take their pick to secure a beneficial team and engine combination. But as for Red Bull, the query remains—who could replace Perez in 2025?
Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s advisor, has been quite open about his interest in Lando Norris from McLaren, who he almost recruited prior to his F1 debut in 2019 with McLaren. Dialogue with Norris also took place before he extended his contract with his current team. Speaking to the Austrian media, Marko commented about Norris’s contract extending till 2025 and expressed regret for the duration as he would unquestionably consider Norris who according to him had youth and speed, an ideal combination. Talking to Kleine Zeitung, Marko also said that Norris was “by far the strongest of the young drivers.”
Despite the interest, McLaren CEO Zak Brown dismissed rumors of Norris potentially being bought out of his contract before 2025, insisting that “Lando will be racing at McLaren through 2025. For sure.” However, with the conclusion of contracts often open for negotiation, there could be a possibility of a deal involving Norris, who seems to have sparked interest from Ferrari and Aston Martin as well.
In case pursuing Norris seems complex, Red Bull could potentially pivot towards Oscar Piastri, Norris’s current team-mate. Piastri, a rookie, has had an exceptional season, and the fact that his contract ends in 2024 makes it a potential opportunity for Red Bull to consider.
The comeback of Ricciardo with the team in Hungary, to replace the underperforming Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri, could potentially lead to a return to the main team in 2025 despite his fracturing his hand that benched him for four races, killing the momentum around his return. At 36 in 2025, Ricciardo may not fit into Marko’s ideal profile of youth and speed, but he is consistent, an attribute that Red Bull appreciates, and he had shown elements of his former self in two crucial races.
One cannot rule out the seemingly unlikely return of former Red Bull driver Albon considering his impressive performance with Williams recently. However, both he and Red Bull have quickly dismissed the idea.
Charles Leclerc is also a significant player in the shifting driver market. Bound with Maranello till 2024, Red Bull would deem the timeline ideal. However, whether Leclerc would leave Ferrari, a team he strongly identifies with unless he does not see a major success on the horizon, remains to be seen. Several teams are rumored to have expressed interest in Leclerc, including Aston Martin.
While Red Bull‘s ideal scenario for 2026 and beyond might be to have Norris on their team roster, they would first need to address the one-year gap in 2025. Would Ricciardo agree to keep the seat warm for Norris? Would there be another interim solution? The last, speculative possibility is that Red Bull and Perez could possibly continue their arrangement.