Considering the current status of things at Red Bull, Max Verstappen can probably expect a new teammate for the 2025 Formula 1 season. During an extremely dominant 2023 season for the Dutch driver, he shattered several records.
However, despite Sergio Perez having the same exact car, his season was quite underwhelming in comparison.
After several mistakes and poor qualifying sessions, it left many members of Red Bull management in frustration. Perez’s contract is due to expire at the end of this season, and odds are he will be replaced unless he pulls off something spectacular.
As things stand, Daniel Ricciardo seems to be first in line to replace the Mexican driver. After making his return to Formula 1 in July, replacing Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri, the Australian raced seven times and did quite well. Despite AlphaTauri having arguably the slowest car on the grid, Ricciardo still scored six points.
But what if Daniel Ricciardo also underperforms?
If Perez and Ricciardo both perform worse than expected, that is when things will become tricky for Red Bull. With their top choices out, they will be prompted to search elsewhere.
Red Bull’s first option from there would likely be Liam Lawson, but his lack of experience and position of being a reserve driver during the 2024 season will not do him any justice.
Though Lawson has proven himself in Formula 1 when he replaced an injured Ricciardo at AlphaTauri, the pressure of a Red Bull seat has shown to be rather daunting for young drivers, namely Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon.
That would be when a sort of panic begins at Red Bull. Both Christian Horner and Helmut Marko would begin to expand their search outside of the Red Bull ring.
The first name likely to come up is Albon. Since his departure from Red Bull at the end of the 2020 season, the 27-year-old has improved. After missing the 2021 season, he has been leading Williams since 2022, and he has been on an upward trajectory. He scored 27 of their 28 points in 2023, leading the team to their best constructor championship finish (seventh place) since 2017.
Considering the last few seasons, it is unclear if Albon would want to play second fiddle to Verstappen, though he did mention this past September that he is “open” once his contract expires. Nearing the age of 30, Albon expressed his imminent desire to fight for wins and podiums.
If Red Bull are unable to sway Albon, there are not many drivers left who seem realistically worthy of that second seat. Under that circumstance, Red Bull may be forced to turn back to Perez or Ricciardo, even if they do not want to.
A lot can happen from now until the end of the season, and a majority of the drivers on the 2024 grid do have contracts that are set to expire at the end of the year. That said, this situation is definitely something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.