Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz is held in high regard by many F1 teams on the grid, including Mercedes according to Toto Wolff.
Following reigning world champion Nico Rosberg's shock retirement last December, Mercedes discretely inquired about the young Spanish driver's availability, but a water tight contract with Red Bull quickly discarded that option.
Still, Toto Wolff admitted to keeping an eye on the Madrid charger.
"Yes, Carlos is ready and I like him and I like the family," Wolff told El Mundo Deportivo.
"Carlos is what he has to be: a modern driver, handsome, intelligent, fast," he said.
"He is a Red Bull driver and they will always try to keep the good ones in their system or to control their destiny.
"And that's the situation right now," he concluded.
Interestingly, Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko would not rule out releasing Sainz next year if an offer exceeding his current contract with the energy drinks company came his way.
"If it was a much better team than Toro Rosso, we can talk," Marko told El Confidecial.
"But Ferrari did not ask for Carlos -- that was in the dreams of Carlos senior. So far no one has called us.
"He must concentrate on doing the best job possible and he will automatically develop. On the other hand, we need a reserve driver and Carlos is our first option."
In any case, Marko deemed it too early to begin talks on the future of Red Bull's drivers.
"Traditionally we talk about drivers after the summer. It's too soon," said the Austrian.