After months of conjecture and uncertainty, Red Bull have finally confirmed that Sergio Perez will replace Alex Albon as Max Verstappen’s team mate for 2021. Alex Albon will step back and take on the role of the team’s test and reserve driver.
“The chance to race for a championship-contending team is something I have been hoping for since I joined F1 and it will be a proud moment to step onto the grid in Red Bull colours,” said Perez.
This is the first time that the Milton Keynes outfit have opted for someone outside of their young driver programme since the signing of Mark Webber in 2007. This is a bold move from Red Bull and one that truly signals their intent to take the fight to Mercedes and challenge for the title next season.
Following on from a strong end to the year with victory in Abu Dhabi, the team will be relieved to have a more consistent, reliable racer alongside Verstappen which will give them more in-race strategy options when battling with Mercedes.
A Verstappen-Perez team-mate rivalry will also be thrilling to watch in the hope that Perez can push Verstappen more than previous team-mates have.
2020 was fraught with adversity for Sergio Perez. He was forced to miss two races after contracting Covid-19 and lost his drive at Aston Martin (formerly known as Racing Point), despite being under contract until 2022.
Despite the challenges faced, Perez has had his most successful season in F1 and has thoroughly established himself as one of the most reliable, skilled and fastest drivers on the grid.
It was just impossible to ignore Sergio’s performance in the Racing Point over the course of the year
– Christian Horner
Perez’s superb performance and steadfast resolve this year has landed him one of F1’s most coveted seats, in a top tier team that could potentially challenge Mercedes for the title in 2021.
There were many noteworthy and hard-fought races for Perez in 2020 such as his P2 in the rain at Turkey or his compelling drive to finish P4 at the Nürburgring. However, the most notable race was his heroic drive at the Sakhir Grand Prix where he won the race after being placed at the back of the grid at the end of Lap 1. This was the Mexican’s maiden F1 victory on his 190th attempt.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said of Sergio Perez: “It was just impossible to ignore Sergio’s performance in the Racing Point over the course of the year and particularly in the second half of the season.”
“He’s a very rounded driver now and I think he has an uncanny ability to over-deliver in machinery he has had available to him.”
While Perez has had a superb season, Alex Albon on the other hand was comprehensively beaten by team-mate Max Verstappen in a dire 2020 campaign. Albon was outqualified by the Dutchman at every race and only finished seventh in the championship, a dismal performance compared to Verstappen’s impressive third-place finish.
Christian Horner said: “Alex is a valued member of the team and we thought long and hard about this decision. Having taken our time to evaluate all the relevant data and performances we have decided that Sergio is the right driver to partner Max for 2021 and look forward to welcoming him to Red Bull Racing.
“Alex remains an important part of our team as Test and Reserve Driver with a key focus on 2022 development and we would like to thank him for his hard work and contribution.”
This last-minute excitement in the driver market sets the stage for an exciting 2021. Will Red Bull finally be able to end Mercedes’ seven-year domination of the sport?