By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The worst kept secret in Formula 1 was confirmed Friday morning as Sergio Perez joins Red Bull Racing on a one-year deal, replacing Alexander Albon, who remains with the team as a test and reserve driver, for the 2021 season.
“I am incredibly grateful to Red Bull for giving me the opportunity to race for Red Bull Racing in 2021,” said Perez. “The chance to race for a championship contending team is something I have been hoping for since I joined Formula 1 and it will be a proud moment to step onto the grid in Red Bull colors alongside Max.
“You can be sure that I will give next season my full focus. The Team has the same winning mentality as me and I know I am here to perform and help the Team fight for another title.”
Perez, a regular in the series since 2011, had his finest season to date in 2020, scoring that elusive first grand prix win at Sakhir in his 190th start. It wasn’t the only highlight for the 30-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, as he also scored a previous podium at Istanbul and finished in the points 13 times.
This resulted in a career-high fourth in the driver’s championship despite missing both Silverstone races due to testing positive for COVID-19.
As for Albon, it was a roller coaster sophomore campaign with Red Bull, scoring two third-place finishes in the Tuscan and Bahrain GPs. Ironically, it was Perez’s engine failure in the latter grand prix that propelled the British-Thai competitor to the final step of the podium.
Accomplishments aside, he frequently struggled staying on par with Max Verstappen. While Albon ended up finishing in the points in 12 of 17 rounds, half of them were only single-digit point tallies. Compared to Verstappen finishing third in the championship, Albon wound up seventh.
Certainly, it’s not what Red Bull are looking for if they really want to fight with the almighty powered Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, the winner of each of the past seven constructors’ titles. Thus, a critical change was made to demote Albon into a reserved role and sign the experienced Perez.
“Alex is a valued member of the Team and we thought long and hard about this decision,” said Christian Horner, team principal at Red Bull Racing. “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.”