Sauber already made one of the first moves of the 2025 driver market by signing Nico Hulkenberg from Haas on a multi-year deal, which takes the German into its first year as the Audi factory team in 2026.

With Lewis Hamilton moving from Mercedes to take his Ferrari seat next year, Sainz is the hottest property who’s currently not under contract for 2025. The 29-year-old already has links to Audi through his father’s Dakar Rally outings, which include victory in the 2024 event.

When asked by about his shortlist for the remaining seat in 2025, Alunni Bravi – who is also the managing director of the Sauber Group – quipped that “all the teams have a short list!”

“Everybody knows that there is a top driver that is available in the market, it’s Carlos Sainz,” he said. “I think that everybody, you know, would like to have Carlos on board. 

“He is one of the best drivers. He shows [himself] to be extremely mature, a good driver to develop the car, to drive the team for the development, but at the same time very consistent, very strong both in qualifying and race. And I think that Ferrari has one of the best pair of drivers.

“But we know also that the drivers market is not depending just by ourself. It is depending on different factors. And there are many teams that are discussing with drivers. And I think that there are several options for our team.

Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber, Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber, Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“And we will evaluate, but now that we announced Nico there is no rush to make this choice. We are still at the very beginning.”

When pushed on what stage talks have reached, and whether his current drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu are still options, Alunni Bravi said no decisions had been taken.

“We are speaking with [Sainz] and other drivers,” he said. “Also with our current drivers.

“But this is why we have no rush, because now we secured one of the two seats. Now we can have more time. The decision is not an easy one. Because, of course, we have two good drivers that have been with us for three years, that are performing well.

“There is Carlos, there are other drivers, and we need to understand – because here we are taking a decision that is not just impacting 2025 but also the future of the Audi works team.

“So, I would say the duration of the contract, what could be the combination… the driver line-up is important. It is not just the decision of a single driver. And all the options are on the table, starting from our current two drivers and find [the one] that could fit into the overall project.”

Another option which remains available to Sainz is rejoining the Red Bull stable, which he left after it overlooked him in favour of Max Verstappen in 2016.

But last month Red Bull’s Helmut Marko revealed that Sainz “has a very lucrative offer from Audi that we can’t match or beat”.

Additional reporting by Mandy Curi