Marko: Red Bull can’t ‘match or beat’ Audi offer for Sainz

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Helmut Marko has confirmed once again Red Bull’s ongoing talks with Carlos Sainz for 2025 but the Austrian admits that the Spaniard has received a significant offer from Audi that the energy drink company cannot “match or beat”.

Sainz’s management has been busy in the past month buzzing around every Formula 1 team on the grid with a vacant spot for the 2025 season.

The musical chairs scenario comes after in late February of Lewis Hamilton taking Sainz's seat at Ferrari next year.

Before Fernando Alonso locked himself in with Aston Martin, Sainz was left juggling possibilities with eight different teams, although only Red Bull, Mercedes and Audi are considered as viable options for the three)time Grand Prix winner.

Audi/Sauber has been eyeing Sainz for a while now as the German manufacturer is keen on locking in a high-profile name ahead of its official arrival on the grid in 2026.

The plot thickens when one factors in Sainz's connection to the brand through his father escapades in the Dakar Rally, tearing through the dunes in their RS Q e-tron machine since 202 and bagging the win in the 2024 edition.

As this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix revs up for its F1 return, Marko tossed another log into the already blazing inferno of speculation surrounding the driver market, dishing out nuggets of insight on Red Bull’s dealing with Sainz in an interview with Austrian paper Kleine Zeitung.

"We're talking to him, he's having his strongest season in F1, but he has a very lucrative offer from Audi that we can't match or beat,” said the Red Bull motorsport boss.

"But we know him from the Toro Rosso days, even back then he drove with Max [in 2015 and early 2016]. But it really hurt him back then when we backed Verstappen at Red Bull and not him."

In the interview, Marko also addressed the speculation surrounding RB's current driver lineup.

Daniel Ricciardo's underwhelming start to the 2024 season has cast a shadow over his future with the team.

This is further complicated by the presence in the wings of talented Red Bull reserve driver Liam Lawson, Ricciardo's impressive replacement during his 2023 injury absence and who many believe should be seated in the second Rb alongside Yuki Tsunoda.

Marko's remarks suggest that RB’s driver line-up might not be set in stone, leaving Ricciardo's position and Lawson's future prospects very much up in the air.

"With Liam Lawson as a reserve driver, we obviously have a strong driver in the team who is contractually entitled to drive for another team if he doesn't get a cockpit with us in 2025," he said.

"In this respect, it would of course be exciting for us if we could see him in Formula 1 this year to get an even clearer picture.

"But it's a complex issue, so we'll have to see how things progress."

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