Sergio Perez signs for Red Bull as Max Verstappen F1 team-mate for 2021 season
Sergio Perez lands one of the grid's big seats to secure his Formula 1 future as Red Bull team-mate to Max Verstappen; Alex Albon loses a race seat for 2021 but remains with team as test and reserve driver
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 18/12/20 5:16pm
Sergio Perez has landed the coveted second seat at Red Bull next to Max Verstappen to stay on the Formula 1 grid for the 2021 season.
Alex Albon is retained by the team in a test and reserve driver role.
"The chance to race for a championship contending team is something I have been hoping for since I joined F1 and it will be a proud moment to step onto the grid in Red Bull colours," said Perez.
In a break with recent Red Bull tradition, Perez becomes the first driver to join the team from outside their own young driver programme since 2007. The Perez-Albon news was reported last Sunday in The Notebook on Sky Sports F1 by Ted Kravitz.
The Mexican driver, 30, was in September dropped by Racing Point for Sebastian Vettel for 2021 but has enjoyed the best season of his F1 career - and finally won his maiden grand prix at the 190th attempt earlier this month at the Sakhir GP.
Meanwhile, Albon has struggled in Verstappen's wake, being outqualified by the Dutchman at every race in 2020 and scoring fewer than half his team-mate's points.
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Red Bull boss Christian Horner said: "Alex is a valued member of the team and we thought long and hard about this decision. 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."
Red Bull had been keen to give the 24-year-old Albon as much time as possible to show he should keep his seat but two third-place finishes and a strong drive to fourth in last week's Abu Dhabi GP have not been enough to secure it.
With two race winners back on their books for the first time since Daniel Ricciardo's exit two years ago, Red Bull are set to field a more formidable line-up when they look to mount a more sustained challenge to world champions Mercedes next season.
Mercedes are now actually the only team with a seat left open for 2021 - although a new deal for seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton remains a formality.
CONFIRMED 2021 FORMULA 1 GRID... SO FAR
Mercedes: TBC and Valtteri Bottas
Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez
McLaren: Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris
Aston Martin: Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll
Alpine: Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon
Ferrari: Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
AlphaTauri: Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda
Alfa Romeo: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi
Haas: Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher
Williams: George Russell and Nicholas Latifi
Perez finally gets his chance in the big time
As astonishing that it had seemed that a driver of Perez's calibre, experience and, most crucially, form was in danger of missing out on a seat for 2021 entirely, the Mexican had made clear on learning his Racing Point fate in September that he was only interested in staying on the grid if he could secure a drive that offered promise for the future.
He has had to wait it out, but Red Bull certainly represent that.
Perez briefly had a taste of one of F1's traditional big teams when he was signed by a then-race-winning McLaren as Lewis Hamilton's replacement in 2013 when the Englishman left for Mercedes.
But the timing proved inopportune. With the Woking team beginning a period of decline, Perez - then only 23 with two promising seasons of F1 with three podiums at Sauber behind him - endured an inconsistent year and was dropped just one year into contract.
His career at the top had appeared in jeopardy at that early stage but he was rescued by what was Force India - where he stayed for the next seven seasons, rebuilding his reputation.
Securing seven podiums for the team that became Racing Point, Perez has established himself as one of F1's consistent and fast performers and relished the team's big step forward in form for 2020.
He finished a career-best fourth in the standings this year despite missing two races with Covid-19 and secured two late-season podiums, including that famous win in Bahrain when he had been last on lap one.