Red Bull principal Christian Horner has confirmed that Alex Albon will spend 2021 “on the bench” if he loses his seat.
The Thai driver scored a podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix, his second of the season, but it only came about thanks to the misfortune of Sergio Perez who suffered a late engine failure when comfortably running P3.
Red Bull want it to be Albon, and have given him the last two races of the season, the Sakhir and Abu Dhabi GPs, to prove to the team that they don’t need to bring Perez into the programme at his expense.
But, if Red Bull were to go with Perez, then there are no plans lined up for Albon to race outside of Formula 1 or at the sister team AlphaTauri.
“I don’t believe he forms part of Franz’s [Tost, AlphaTauri team principal] plans for next year,” Horner told reporters ahead of the Sakhir Grand Prix.
“So it’s very much a Red Bull seat, or a year on the bench. So the focus is on giving him that opportunity.
“He’s got two races, he did a good job last weekend, being on the podium, his second podium in F1.
“He’s had a good first practice, a good start to the weekend here and two more weekends to demonstrate that he is absolutely the right guy to be in that car alongside Max [Verstappen] next year.
“And we’re giving him all the support that we possibly can to achieve that goal.”
Horner reaffirmed his stance that Albon for 2021 is their preferred option, rather than putting him on the shelf.
“It’s not something that we are contemplating at the moment,” he said on the prospect of sidelining Albon.
“So I guess once we get to the end of the year, then we’ll evaluate all of those options. I mean, he’s on a long-term agreement, as all Red Bull drivers are when they join the team.
“So our focus is at the moment on the race seat, and giving him the opportunity to demonstrate that he is making significant progress, building on that podium from last weekend, and this early practice form.
“I think that you’ve got to look at how Max has evolved over the last few years.
“If you look at his average [qualifying deficit], Alex’s average is still closer than for example Pierre’s was last year to Max.
“And we know we’ve had some issues with the car that have made life particularly difficult, which I think we worked hard to address, and have been addressing. So we’re confident that that situation will hopefully improve for him.
“But Max is a tall order to go up against, he’s arguably probably the most in-form driver currently in F1. I think it’d be tough for any driver to go currently up against Max.”