Red Bull has officially confirmed the arrival of Sergio Perez as Max Verstappen’s new team-mate for the 2021 season with Alex Albon dropping to reserve driver.
After being told by Racing Point, soon to be known as Aston Martin, in September that he would be the driver to make way for the incoming Sebastian Vettel, Perez’s options for 2021 appeared to be pretty thin on the ground.
However, Perez has remained a model of consistency throughout the campaign and kept himself in contention for the Red Bull drive as the Milton Keynes team were prepared to give the struggling Alex Albon until the end of season to prove he was worthy of keeping the seat.
After the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, both team boss Christian Horner and motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko both stated they would be heading back to the UK to finalise their decision and make it public before Christmas.
That decision was officially confirmed on Friday morning, with Red Bull, who rarely look outside their own driver programme when it comes to filling seats, handing Perez an initial one-year deal with team.
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Perez was prepared to sit out a year and assess his options again for 2022, but the Red Bull contract is a reward for a brilliant season which was capped by a sensational victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix, where he came from last on the first lap to win.
Albon, who actually put together his strongest race weekend yet at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, according to Horner, was not able to return to sister team AlphaTauri for 2021 as Pierre Gasly will be joined by rising star Yuki Tsunoda.
With no room at the inn, Albon will be in a reserve and driver development role next season with the hope of rejoining the grid again in 2022.
Perez’s confirmation means there is just one Lewis Hamilton-shaped gap left to fill on the 2021 grid.
But news of the seven-time World Champion’s long-awaited contract extension is imminent with Mercedes teasing that news is on the way.
The Silver Arrows also confirmed that Toto Wolff will remain as team boss for the next three years and he, Daimler and INEOS are all now joint equal shareholders in the Mercedes team.
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