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Analysis

Who could Red Bull sign to replace Perez in F1 2025?

Sergio Perez and Red Bull have given the firmest hints of looking at alternatives when his Formula 1 contract runs out in 2024. But who could Red Bull turn to?

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Signing Perez was the latest attempt by Red Bull to find a driver who could be a good wingman for its undisputed leader Max Verstappen, someone who could back up Verstappen's success with enough podiums to land the Milton Keynes team the constructors' championship.

Its junior drivers Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon didn't work out after being thrown to the lions early in their F1 careers, but the much more experienced Perez held his own, taking five of his six career wins in just under three years with Red Bull thus far.

His latest wins at the start of 2023 reignited Perez's dream of vying for the championship with Verstappen, but the Dutchman has struck back ferociously with a record streak of 10 consecutive wins which has knocked the wind out of Perez' sails.

The Mexican's contract runs until the end of 2024, but in a recent interview with Spanish rights-holder DAZN he has give the firmest hint yet that he won't renew his Red Bull deal at all costs, perhaps coming to the realisation that Red Bull's car design will continue to evolve around his team-mate.

"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," he said.

"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."

If re-signing isn't a given for Perez, then it certainly isn't for Red Bull either, which has never really stopped looking over its shoulder to the next best driver for its second seat.

In Italy, team boss Christian Horner said: "In ’25 we have one seat open and, as you can imagine, there's not a shortage of interest in that seat.” 

The season precedes the 2026 regulation changes, when F1 will move to all-new cars and power units.

The top dogs in the driver market are therefore in a strong position, able to bide their time until they can make the best choice on which team and engine combination they think is well poised for success in 2026 and beyond.

But who could Red Bull realistically turn to in 2025 to replace Perez?

LANDO NORRIS

Lando Norris, McLaren

Lando Norris, McLaren

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Speaking to Austrian media recently, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko openly courted McLaren's Lando Norris, who he came close to signing before he made his F1 debut with McLaren in 2019. It also held exploratory talks with Norris before he signed a contract extension with the Woking team.

"Norris has a contract until 2025. Unfortunate that it's for so long, because he would be one of the candidates," he told ServusTV. "In terms of youth and speed, he would suit us very well."

Speaking with Kleine Zeitung, Marko added that Norris is "by far the strongest of the young drivers."

McLaren CEO Zak Brown was quick to pour cold water over suggestions that Norris could be bought out of his contract before 2025, saying "Lando will be racing at McLaren through 2025. For sure." 

While there is no reason to doubt Brown, his words could also be an opening stance in any negotiations and as wheeler and dealer Brown well knows, there are always deals to be done in the final years of contracts. McLaren has also yet to agree to a 2026 engine supply, which could either complicate matters or sweeten any deal involving Norris.

Norris is turning into a key player in the 2025 and 2026 drivers' market, with also reports of interest from Ferrari and Aston Martin. And while Norris has said he is open to forming a team with Verstappen one day, he will be weary of walking into the Dutchman's Red Bull team, which would be the challenge of a lifetime.

If McLaren continues its upward trend and delivers on the potential provided by its upgraded infrastructure and high-profile hires in Woking, renewing with the team that gave him a home might not be such a bad idea after all.

OSCAR PIASTRI

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

If a deal involving Norris is too complex, then perhaps Red Bull could turn to his team-mate Oscar Piastri. Piastri has had the most impressive season by a rookie in years, becoming more and more of a match for Norris.

The good news for Red Bull is that Piastri's deal only runs until 2024, so it could make a play for the unflappable Australian if it sees him as the right type of driver for the role.

DANIEL RICCIARDO

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, Franz Tost, Team Principal, Scuderia AlphaTauri

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, Franz Tost, Team Principal, Scuderia AlphaTauri

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

When Ricciardo made a shock in-season F1 return in Hungary to replace the underperforming Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri, it was clear from the outset that the Australian was auditioning for a return with the main team in 2025.

Ricciardo's comeback has been stunted by a fractured hand, which will see him sit out at least four races. It is a huge setback that has killed the momentum around his return, but Ricciardo showed flashes of his old self in the two races he contested with AlphaTauri and looks likely to keep his seat for 2024 if he can finish the season strongly.

Ricciardo will turn 36 in 2025 and so does not suit Marko's "youth and speed" narrative, but like Perez he is an experienced pair of hands who can consistently bring home results.

Wanting to escape Verstappen's shadow when he left for Renault, he is now at the stage of his career where that is no longer an issue and being back in a competitive seat would be a success by itself.

YUKI TSUNODA / LIAM LAWSON / ALEXANDER ALBON

Alex Albon, Williams Racing Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia AlphaTauri

Alex Albon, Williams Racing Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia AlphaTauri

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Continuing the trend of promoting from within, AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda and Ricciardo's temporary replacement Liam Lawson are the most realistic options Red Bull already has under contract.

Following Gasly's exit to Alpine, Tsunoda has taken on more responsibility and has quietly had a solid '23 season. Youth and speed are not the issue, but whether the 23-year-old Japanese really fits the bill as a reliable wingman to Verstappen is less certain.

Tsunoda will also have to watch out for Lawson, who has enjoyed a strong first full race weekend in Monza, qualifying within two tenths of Tsunoda despite his lack of familiarity with the AT04.

While Tsunoda didn't make the start of the race due to a power unit issue, Lawson finished 11th after a more impressive showing than his arduous Zandvoort debut.

The New Zealander is set to get at least two more outings in the car in Singapore and Japan and might complicate AlphaTauri's driver decision for 2024 if he fully gets on par with Tsunoda.

On the topic of promoting from within, former Red Bull driver Albon has recently cropped up as a target for several top teams thanks to his impressive outings with Williams. But both Albon and Red Bull were quick to rule out an unlikely return to the team he left at the end of 2020.

CHARLES LECLERC

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, in the post Qualifying Press Conference

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, in the post Qualifying Press Conference

Photo by: FIA Pool

Like Norris, Leclerc is another major player in the next silly season. The Monegasque driver is tied to Maranello until the end of 2024, so the timing would work out for Red Bull.

Leclerc's future will hinge on his belief Ferrari will once again be able to fight for championships, with his keen preference to stay with the Scuderia he has such close connection to.

It would be a difficult decision for Leclerc to leave Ferrari, but if he feels major success cannot be achieved, then several teams might be interested in his services. 

Aston Martin is said to already have inquired over his availability, and he could also be an option to replace Perez. Like Norris, Leclerc gets on well with Verstappen.

MIX AND MATCH

The most intriguing scenario is what happens if Red Bull does land its prime target Norris for 2026 and beyond and has a one-year gap to fill in 2025.

Will Ricciardo be content to keep Norris' seat warm for a year? Will it find a stop-gap solution elsewhere?

Or perhaps Red Bull would end up where it began, and continue a marriage convenience with Perez...

Read Also:
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

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