Amid speculation of an imminent split between Carlos Sainz Jr and Toro Rosso, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has hinted that the Spaniard could be available to rival teams if the price is right.
Sainz has expressed his frustration in what he perceives as a lack of opportunities within the Red Bull programme, while Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are under contract beyond this season in the senior team.
Despite previously quelling rumours of a Sainz departure from the Red Bull programme, Horner has hinted that the 22-year-old could be bought out of his contract if a suitable offer is made.
“Sainz has a contract with Red Bull and there are two years left on that contract,” he explained. “We value him as an asset and an asset has a value. So if there was a desire from another team to have him, or for him to go somewhere else, something that has a value has to have a price attached.
“If somebody was prepared to make an offer, we would, of course, consider it. But it would need to have a significant value attached because we have invested in Carlos. We are not just going to give an asset away.”
Prior to the Austrian Grand Prix earlier this month, Sainz stated that he did not wish to become the first driver to spend a fourth year at Toro Rosso.
Intriguingly, rumours surfaced last weekend that the Spaniard could be set to replace a struggling Jolyon Palmer at Renault – with the Brit yet to secure his first point of the season – as early as the Hungarian Grand Prix.
These rumours have since been denied by all parties. “Many people are talking to me about this rumour, and for me it’s just a rumour,” Sainz himself stated.
“In the end, not one single comment you see is from your boss or from those who are actually managing your career. If you don’t hear anything from them, you’d expect it to be just a rumour. So, I don’t comment on rumours.”
What is clear is that Sainz is hot property and unhappy with the concept of remaining at Toro Rosso beyond 2017. Horner’s suggestion that Red Bull would consider offers for his services, combined with these factors, makes a team switch for Sainz highly likely.