Beijing, Dec 18 (IANS) Sergio Perez will drive for Red Bull Racing in the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship, the team announced on Friday. Perez, 30, replaces Alex Albon, after the Anglo-Thai driver endured a disappointing 2020 season in which he was overwhelmingly overshadowed by teammate Max Verstappen.
“Red Bull Racing can today confirm that Sergio Perez will join the Team and race alongside Max Verstappen in the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship. Current driver Alex Albon remains an important member of the team and takes on the role of Red Bull Racing test and reserve driver with a key focus on 2022 development, simulator work and tyre testing,” the F1 team said in a statement.
“I am incredibly grateful to Red Bull for giving me the opportunity to race for Red Bull Racing in 2021. The chance to race for a championship contending team is something I have been hoping for since I joined Formula One and it will be a proud moment to step onto the grid in Red Bull colours alongside Max,” said Perez. “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.”
The decision to sign free agent Perez goes against the norm for Red Bull, who have a well-established junior driver program and have historically looked to promote talent from their sister F1 team AlphaTauri.
However, in recent years, Red Bull have struggled to find a teammate capable of matching Verstappen, and the depth of talent in their junior ranks has also been called into question.
For Perez, the move represents his best chance yet of regularly competing at the front of the grid, after a 10-season F1 career spent largely in the midfield.
Had Red Bull elected not to sign him, the Mexican would have been facing a year on the sidelines of F1, having been unceremoniously dropped by Racing Point for 2021 when four-time champion Sebastian Vettel became available.
However, despite the uncertainty surrounding his future, Perez continued to turn in impressive performances, taking a fairy-tale debut win at the Sakhir Grand Prix and comprehensively outscoring teammate Lance Stroll, son of team owner Lawrence Stroll.
With all other seats on the 2021 grid now filled, except for that of Mercedes although seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is expected to agrees on a contract extension, Albon faces a year without a drive.