By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Sergio Perez will continue his Formula 1 career in 2021 while Alexander Albon will have to take a backseat as Red Bull Racing’s reserved driver.
Quite the sigh of relief for most people on social media, who were waiting for hours upon hours to hear the announcement. They’ve seen what Perez can do with a super serviceable car in Racing Point where he finally won a grand prix race and ended up fourth in the championship standings.
Whereas Albon is seen as a guy that wasn’t strong enough to rival Max Verstappen. More importantly, help Red Bull Racing to be toe-to-toe with the seven-time constructors’ champion Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team.
As unfortunate Albon won’t be back with Red Bull in 2021, there’s one thing worth noting. He’s not the only driver in recent memory to play the reserved role as Antonio Giovinazzi (2018) and Esteban Ocon (2019) weren’t on the F1 grid for one season before returning back in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Time will tell if the same fate happens to the British-Thai racer after 2021, but for now, Perez must prove himself on a true top-tier team as all eyes will be on him to deliver strong finishes or even provide some competition for Verstappen.
Red Bull have put just about every egg on Verstappen’s basket and people can’t say it’s just a sudden occurrence. They’ve done this well before Daniel Ricciardo left the team for Renault (now Alpine) at the end of 2018. Fans and critics alike are certainly aware they’re sorely missing that other guy who can be on par with the Dutchman.
If anyone can stop Mercedes from going undefeated in the Hybrid Era (since 2014), Red Bull should be that team. Scuderia Ferrari have tried and failed. After their abysmal 2020 campaign, I can’t consider them as a threat until the new regulations are enforced in 2022.
The addition of Perez may not be Ricciardo levels of strong. Remember when he was regularly beating Sebastian Vettel and took him third-place in the championship. Something people tend to either ignore or forget these days.
However, what Perez brings to the table is strong pace, superb tire management, and giving it his absolute all. With those strengths, I hope he can wash away his only other time he was with a championship caliber team which was McLaren in 2013.
Yeah, the one year he was with that team before being replaced by Kevin Magnussen the following season. Fingers crossed for Perez, a similar outcome doesn’t unfold.
Positives aside, there’s one quick problem with Perez’s signing. That being avoiding having clashes with Verstappen, who doesn’t shy away from his opinions about any topic.
Remember the whole feud between Perez and Ocon when they were teammates at the former Force India?
Ocon was par with Perez, but multiple incidents have reach an ugly turning point where the team wouldn’t let them race any longer. I see that being a concern, especially when it’s a cut throat team like RBR.
Also, Perez is a feast or famine kind of driver. When he qualifies good, he’ll run good. When it’s the opposite, it’ll be a long race and sometimes we saw that when it’s a Lance Stroll favored weekend.
Funny enough, the weak trait is how I see with Albon except it’s not too obvious. Verstappen has walloped Albon compared to the times Stroll was better than Perez, where it’s just a couple of spots.
Those concerns are a risk for Red Bull, but they really need to be that team who can go toe-to-toe with Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Perez is that competitive guy who’s willing to take risks that Albon didn’t quite fulfilled.
I totally understand why Albon wouldn’t right now. He’s young and when he’s on it, he’s a real serviceable driver. Again the problem is that F1 is super cut throat where if you’re in a top-level team, any mistakes or lack of feedback will go against you. You must adapt quickly and that’s the bottom line.
Verstappen, who’s 23 years old and will enter his seventh season in 2021, has that mentality of telling his crew what he wants and what works best under any circumstances.
Albon doesn’t have that attribute yet and I sure hope in his year off from the 20-car grid, he can further develop himself to step up his game and prove that he’s ready to return on the grid.
The only way I could see Albon on the 2021 racing lineup is if the Haas F1 Team takes one obvious action, but it’s not the time to discuss that particular fiasco.
For now, great opportunity for Perez which does come at the expense of Albon. Come Australian Grand Prix in March (should it go on as planned of course), will see how Red Bull stacks up with two competitive drivers and see if the critical change will be the difference in stopping Mercedes.
If they fail with Perez, then it’s really going to make the entire team look bad. It’ll further fuel the fire on the lack of care for the Red Bull Junior Program. Clearly, it’s not working right now and by venturing off from a young talent from the camp (past or present), it’s really put up or shut up time for the team who hasn’t won the constructors’ title since 2013.