Aston Martin Red Bull Racing advisor Helmut Marko has dismissed the idea that Max Verstappen has vetoed Carlos Sainz Jr. as his team-mate for 2019.
Sainz Jr. is confirmed to be leaving the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team after a one-and-a-quarter-year loan from Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season, to be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo – who announced his decision to leave Red Bull for Renault last week.
The Spaniard, along with current Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda driver Pierre Gasly, is one of the favourites to replace Ricciardo and partner Verstappen at the senior side. However, there have been reports that Sainz Jr. and the Dutchman share a fractious relationship stretching back to their days at Toro Rosso between 2015 and the ’16 Russian Grand Prix, before Verstappen’s promotion. Sainz Jr. was thought to have been frustrated at Red Bull’s decision to choose Verstappen over him to replace Daniil Kvyat.
Yet Marko was keen to put an end to the belief that the two would bring disharmony to the team and stressed that Red Bull are the ones who will decide on their driver pairing.
“Daniel called me on Thursday to inform me about the decision to leave the team at the end of the season,” Marko told El Confidencial. “He spent most of his career at Red Bull and told me he wanted a change.
“Now, we will have to think about who will be Max’s teammate. The rumours that point to the veto of Verstappen of Sainz, are bulls**t. Red Bull is the only one that decides on its driver pairing.”
Allegedly, one of the reasons for Ricciardo’s departure was his feeling that Red Bull favoured Verstappen and are keen to make the 20-year-old Formula 1‘s youngest-ever World Champion by centring their challenge around him. The pair’s former boss at Toro Rosso, Franz Tost, believes that Sainz Jr. holds “a speed similar or equal” to Verstappen.
If Sainz Jr. is overlooked by Red Bull for next year, his most likely destination seems to be the McLaren F1 Team, potentially alongside compatriot and idol Fernando Alonso.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown informed Motorsport.com last week that the 23-year-old is under consideration for a drive if he becomes a free agent.
“We think Carlos is an excellent race car driver,” said Brown.
“Of course, he is potentially on the market, we don’t know his exact situation at Renault and Red Bull, but he’s certainly someone that as you go down the shortlist of drivers you’d consider putting in a race car.
“If he was free, and if we had a seat, he would certainly be high up on the consideration set.”