Red Bull wanted to keep Alex Albon but had to make a decision based on his 2020 performances, according to team principal Christian Horner.
Albon struggled to get close to teammate Max Verstappen during the condensed season, picking up just two podiums from the 17 races and scoring fewer than half the points Verstappen did. The main issue tended to be Albon struggling to qualify in the top four or maintain such a position at the start of races, preventing him from being close enough to the Mercedes drivers to have an influence on their strategy. Eventually, Red Bull opted to sign Sergio Perez for 2021 last week and Horner (pictured at right, above, with Albon) says the late decision was because the team wanted Albon to succeed.
“Max’s 2021 teammate has been a matter for debate and at times something that has yielded intense questioning and external pressure for Alex,” Horner said. “He handled this extremely well and it impressed me how much strength, resilience and class he has displayed throughout.
“All of us wanted to see Alex retain the seat for 2021. We therefore made the decision to evaluate the performances at the end of the season with a full set of data. Looking at the delta between our two drivers and given Sergio’s strong performances, particularly in the second half of the year, we made the decision that Sergio had earned the 2021 seat.”
Despite his demotion, Horner insists Albon remains in the frame to return to Red Bull in future even though it will be Perez who is able to show what he is capable of in race situations next year.
“Alex remains an important part of the team and will focus on 2022 development and of course making himself a contender for a future race seat,” Horner said. “He is also one of the most humble drivers we have ever worked with and a highly regarded member of the team.
“We have decided to go outside of the program for the first time since 2007 but we need to field the strongest team possible in order to take the fight to Mercedes. Sergio’s experience will be crucial next season and we look forward to welcoming him to the team.”