Red Bull principal Christian Horner has assured that Alex Albon remains an “important” part of the team despite his demotion.
The Thai driver had struggled for form throughout the 2020 campaign, with Sergio Perez looming as a free agent for 2021. But, after arguably his strongest showing in Red Bull colours at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where he put late pressure on Lewis Hamilton for P3, it seemed like Albon perhaps had done enough to save his seat.
After the event though rumours began to surface suggesting that it would indeed be Perez who was chosen to partner Max Verstappen for 2021, and that is exactly what has happened.
Red Bull have confirmed that Verstappen and Perez will form their driver line-up for 2021, while Albon take on the role of test and reserve driver.
Albon follows Pierre Gasly in getting the Red Bull axe having struggled to make the step up from the junior team, but Albon, like Gasly, remains a part of the driver programme.
And Horner made it clear that Albon remains an “important” member of the team going forward with Red Bull focusing him on development work for 2022 when Formula 1 introduces sweeping new regulations.
“Alex is a valued member of the team and we thought long and hard about this decision,” Horner said.
“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.”
— Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) December 18, 2020
Albon finished the 2020 season with 105 points, good enough for only P7 in the Drivers’ Championship, while Verstappen scored 214 to secure P3 in the standings.
The Dutchman also scored 11 podiums to Albon’s two.
Red Bull will now be hoping that Perez can get himself involved in the fight with Mercedes next season, something which Albon regularly failed to do, leaving Red Bull vulnerable when it came to strategy.
Perez finished outside the points only twice in 2020 for Racing Point, but both of them came as a result of mechanical failures.
The first was an engine failure which saw him retire from P3 in Bahrain, though he was ultimately classified in P18, while at the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP Perez retired again due to a loss of power.