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Why Daniel Ricciardo’s chances of being promoted could be severely damaged by Carlos Sainz’s victory.

Following his spectacular victory at the Australian Grand Prix, Christian Horner, the team principal for Red Bull, has expressed interest in signing Carlos Sainz.
In Melbourne, the Spaniard won the third race of the Formula 1 season. On lap two, he passed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, just as the Dutch driver experienced brake troubles that ended the race.

Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s teammate, stated that Sainz would have “absolutely” won the race even in the absence of those problems. Because Sainz won so early in the season and finished ahead of his Ferrari colleague Charles Leclerc, it is even more significant of a milestone.

Ultimately, the Monegasque driver is regarded as the best at the Scuderia.
It makes sense that Sainz would have opportunities at two of the best Formula One teams.

Sainz and Red Bull

Red Bull has something of a tug-of-war between Perez and its RB “juniors” Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo.

It could be that none of those three end up at Red Bull in 2025 with Sainz now looming as a serious contender to partner Verstappen.

“I think we want to field the best pairing that we can in Red Bull Racing and sometimes you’ve got to look outside the pool as well,” Horner told after the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

“You’ve had a very fast, unemployed driver win today’s race. So the market is reasonably fluid with certain drivers.”

Asked whether he would consider bringing Sainz on board, Horner replied: “Look, based on a performance like that you couldn’t rule any possibility out, so I think you just want to take the time (to decide).

“Obviously, Checo (Sergio Perez) was compromised today. He’s had a great start to the season too, so we’re not in any desperate rush. Carlos is the only driver that’s beaten Red Bull in the last (year), so he appears to be our nemesis.”

Sainz has a pre-existing relationship with Red Bull, having been a Toro Rosso driver (now RB) from 2015 to 2017 before being released to join the factory Renault team (now Alpine).

Sainz and Mercedes

Sainz is unemployed beyond 2024, but it’s hard to imagine a situation in 2025 where the three-time grand prix winner isn’t on the grid.

The other option outside of Red Bull, and perhaps a more obvious one, is Mercedes.

With seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton taking Sainz’s spot at Ferrari, it could be a simple swap for the Silver Arrows.

“It’s a mad world, the only driver who has beaten a Red Bull since November 2022 is out of a job for next year,” said ex-grand prix driver Karun Chandok on Sky Sports F1’s coverage.

“It was a superb performance. He had the measure of Charles since the start of qualifying. He executes a perfect race.

“If you were Mercedes looking at it? You’d say ‘We have lost an established star, we’re coming into the final year of the regulations, we need an experienced driver who has shown that he cope with the pressure of winning grands prix’. There’s one, right here. I think he’d be a great fit alongside George Russell at Mercedes.”

Mercedes hasn’t made much noise about who it will replace Hamilton with outside of F2 young gun Andrea Kimi Antonelli, but in the six races this season the Italian hasn’t exactly blown the competition out of the water.

He’s yet to stand on the podium and lies ninth in the drivers’ championship. F1 prodigies like Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc were all race winners on debut.

Unless there’s an uptick in performance, Mercedes might find themselves taking a serious look at Sainz.

As it stands, there are few other obvious front-running options – even among those off-contract.

The evergreen two-time champion Fernando Alonso has flirted with the idea of joining Mercedes, although that could just be a bid to drive up his stocks in the driver market.

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