Christian Horner’s Sergio Perez comments will be uncomfortable for Ferrari & Carlos Sainz

Matt Hobkinson
Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Christian Horner and Max Verstappen

Christian Horner has told Sergio Perez that the Red Bull seat is “his to lose” for next season – something that will make Ferrari and Carlos Sainz rather uncomfortable for two very different reasons.

Last season, few F1 fans would have expected Horner to turn around and say that Perez is a shoo-in for the 2025 Red Bull seat alongside Max Verstappen.

Although those exact words did not come out the team principal’s mouth, that is, with a few caveats, the situation that the Mexican finds himself in if he can keep up his fine start to the year.

Checo has finished second in three of the four grands prix so far and still came home fifth the one time he dropped out of the podium places, at the Australian Grand Prix.

That race belonged to Sainz, who was in inspired form just 16 days after having his appendix removed. Yet remarkably, the Spaniard is without a confirmed seat for next year after Ferrari’s decision to ditch him for Lewis Hamilton.

Yes, Mercedes’ car is a far cry from years gone by, but right now there doesn’t seem to be that difficult a choice to make as to which driver between Hamilton and Sainz you would want in the Ferrari next season.

But that is the decision of Fred Vasseur and the Scuderia and they have seven world championships to shake at you if you disagree.

But Sainz and Ferrari find themselves at a curious impasse. Ferrari want Sainz to succeed of course, but they will also be eager for Charles Leclerc to come out on top and validate their decision to keep the Monegasque driver.

Sainz, meanwhile, will want to help Ferrari succeed as it means that he is doing well and putting himself in the shop window for a premium drive next year.

Has Christian Horner closed the Red Bull door on Carlos Sainz?

The role of Verstappen’s teammate looked to be the best seat in the house at the end of last season, and arguably still is, with Perez’s job security also facing serious threat. Yet that has changed in a heartbeat as Perez reminded the world just how safe a pair of hands he is.

If we were, for a moment, to rule out the second Red Bull seat as an option for Sainz. It leaves a rather worrying picture for the Spaniard.

McLaren are fully committed to Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri – and whether Sainz would want to move back to his old team another question entirely.

Aston Martin provide an intriguing option should they make a change, but whether Sainz believes they can provide him with a race-winning or even championship-winning car would be doubtful. Fernando Alonso’s 2023 campaign could be testament to the contrary, of course.

Not looking to move any lower down the grid, that just leaves Mercedes, who, let’s be honest, have some major problems right now. Toto Wolff is still in search of his silver bullet, and although the 2026 regulation changes could make them an appealing destination, their performance trajectory from 2021 is alarming to say the least.

Sainz would no doubt love to get behind the wheel of Adrian Newey’s rocketship for next season, but if Horner really is happy to stick with Perez – performance review pending – then it leaves the 29-year-old in an awkward spot.

Have Ferrari made the right decision?

But what if Ferrari waited a bit more before deciding to replace Sainz? Admittedly they might have lost the chance to sign Hamilton, but would they honestly want to replace Sainz given the start he has had to the year? I would doubt that very much.

Vasseur, unlike Horner it seems, did not want to wait. He has made his choice and now has to watch as Sainz seemingly goes from strength to strength at Ferrari before the chequered flag is waved in Abu Dhabi.

In Hamilton and Leclerc, the Frenchman is pinning his hopes on a driver that has nothing left to prove and one who is desperate to show the world that he is a future champion.

Whether Vasseur wishes he took a bit more time before making that decision is still yet to be seen – there are 20 races left after all – but aside from Verstappen, Sainz would be very high on the list of most-wanted drivers for next season.

So while Horner has insisted the Red Bull seat is Perez’s to lose, Ferrari have made their mind up over Sainz – a decision that only time will tell if they will come to regret, it’s certainly looking like a questionable one at best so far.

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