Make no mistake, Red Bull Racing is going after Mercedes in 2021.
Red Bull, runner-up in the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship this past season and a top-three finisher in the final standings each of the past five seasons, on Friday confirmed driver Sergio Perez for the seat alongside Max Verstappen for the 2021 F1 season.
The length of the deal was not announced.
In Perez, Red Bull is getting the top available driver in the 2021 driver market. Perez, who turns 31 on Dec. 26, finished fourth in the F1 Drivers’ Championship in 2020 despite missing two races after testing positive for COVID-19. Only Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen finished ahead of Perez in the standings.
Perez replaces underachieving Alex Albon at Red Bull. Albon finished the season with four consecutive points finishes, but was just seventh in the final driver standings after finishing eighth for Red Bull in 2019.
Albon is staying on at Red Bull as a reserve and test driver. He’ll be active in the testing and simulator development of Red Bull’s 2022 car and be in the wings in case needed for active duty next season. One can surmise that Albon, 24, is still firmly in Red Bull’s future plans.
The move to bring in Perez clearly shows, however, that Red Bull plans to throw everything it can at Mercedes next year in an effort to snap Mercedes’ record string of seven consecutive F1 Constructors Championships. The 2021 season is key in that it is the last season before the sport unveils new cars and an overhaul of regulations for 2022.
Perez is a former Ferrari Academy driver. He’s raced in Formula 1 since 2011 but finally came into his own this year. His win at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain snapped a streak of 189 races to start a career without a victory. Perez finished in the points in 13 of his 15 races this season, only failing to score at Bahrain and in the season-ending race at Abu Dhabi. Both DNFs were due to car issues.
Perez was only available because Racing Point signed former Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to drive in 2021, and Racing Point team owner Lawrence Stroll preferred keeping son Lance in the team’s other car to pair with Vettel.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner now has two drivers who won races in 2020 and have proven they have the potential to run up front. Verstappen won two races and Perez one this season. Verstappen led 87 laps and racked up 11 podiums, while Perez led 26 laps and had two podiums.
Albon, meanwhile, has led just 1 lap in his 38-race F1 career. He finished out of the points in five of 17 races this year.
“Alex is a valued member of the Team and we thought long and hard about this decision,” Horner said. “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.”
Estoy feliz de compartir esto con todos ustedes, en 2021 correremos con Red Bull Racing.
I’m very happy to share this with all of you, we will drive for @redbullracing in 2021 #GivesYouWings pic.twitter.com/vFsEbL5D0C
Did Red Bull make the right call? Can they seriously challenge Mercedes in 2021? Jump into the F1 discussion in the comments section below.
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