Formula 1: 5 drivers who could have replaced Sergio Perez at Red Bull

Red Bull made the surprising decision to not only re-sign Sergio Perez but to give him a new two-year contract that runs through the 2026 Formula 1 season.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Formula 1
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Formula 1 / Rudy Carezzevoli/GettyImages

Ever since the middle of the 2023 Formula 1 season, when his performance began to dip, there have been rumors surrounding Sergio Perez's future with Red Bull.

Though he was already under contract through 2024, one such rumor indicated that the Mexican driver would be announcing his retirement during last year's Mexico City Grand Prix race weekend, but that did not come to fruition.

And neither did any of the rumors surrounding Red Bull's "cutthroat" standard being applied toward the 34-year-old driver with an in-season demotion to RB, or perhaps even a full firing.

Nevertheless, the assumption was that the Milton Keynes-based team would be moving on from Perez at the end of the 2024 season, especially amid his current rough stretch of races.

He has plummeted from second to fifth place in the world championship standings, and while the RB20 is far from the world beater that many wanted to think it was to start the year, he continues to qualify toward the back of the field, fail to advance forward, and even crash.

Yet Red Bull announced that they have signed him to not just a one-year extension but a two-year extension.

There were suggestions that, given some of the behind-the-scenes drama that Red Bull were reported to have endured leading up to the 2024 season involving team principal Christian Horner, the contract extension was given to Perez to maintain stability within the team ahead of the implementation of the new rules and regulations in 2026.

Regardless, it has left a contingent of fans wondering what could have been when it comes to the seat alongside Max Verstappen in 2025. Here are five drivers whom Red Bull could have called upon to replace the six-time Grand Prix winner.

Carlos Sainz Jr.

With Lewis Hamilton set to replace Carlos Sainz Jr. at Ferrari next year, Sainz is still looking for a seat, and he used to be a member of the Red Bull organization, having competed for RB (then Toro Rosso) from 2015 through the majority of the 2017 season.

One of the more underrated drivers on the grid, the 29-year-old Spaniard was the only Formula 1 race winner not named Max Verstappen in the 23 races contested from May 2023 to April 2024. He won twice during that stretch and is the only driver not named Verstappen to stand atop the podium in each of the last three seasons.

Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda has made major improvements since entering Formula 1 in 2021, and his impressive start to the 2024 season made him hard to ignore for the second Red Bull seat. He has scored points in five of the last seven races and sits in the top 10 in the standings for an RB team not positioned even close to the top five in the constructor standings.

Instead, the 24-year-old Japanese driver is set to remain with RB for 2025, potentially setting up a move to Aston Martin with Honda in 2026.

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo used to compete for Red Bull before opting to leave for Renault after the 2018 season, and while he did win a race for McLaren in 2021, his decision to leave what is now Formula 1's top team seems to have backfired. He rejoined Red Bull as their third driver in 2023 and replaced the struggling Nyck de Vries at RB (then AlphaTauri) during the year.

Ricciardo did not exactly make the most of his second chance with the Red Bull organization, and the 34-year-old Australian struggled again to start the 2024 season. However, he has performed at a higher level in recent races, and over the last three Grand Prix weekends, he and Perez are level with four points each.

Liam Lawson

Red Bull promoting Liam Lawson straight to the main team would have been relatively unexpected, but given the fact that the 22-year-old New Zealander outperformed Tsunoda when he was called upon to replace the injured Ricciardo last year – and the fact that he knocked Verstappen out in Q2 in Singapore – it would have made sense.

Whether Lawson replaces Ricciardo at RB next year remains to be seen, but if Red Bull don't give him a role other than reserve driver, they risk losing him to a rival organization.

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas was never seriously discussed as a potential Red Bull candidate for 2025, but it's easy to see why he would have been worth considering. Bottas is the ultimate team player, having played a part in five constructor championships in five years while Hamilton was dominating at Mercedes, so he would not ruffle any feathers by coming in and thinking he could beat Verstappen.

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While he has enjoyed a lower stress environment at a much less competitive Sauber team over the last three seasons, a return to a top team for a year or two to wrap up his career would have been ideal. Recency bias can sometimes cloud facts, but the fact is that Bottas is the fourth most decorated driver on the Formula 1 grid. The three ahead of him are all top 10 drivers of all-time.