Despite signs of improvement in his final four races with Red Bull, Helmut Marko says Alex Albon was “not consistent enough” to secure his place on the grid.
Albon stepped up to Red Bull in 2019, promoted mid-season after Pierre Gasly failed to live up to expectations.
Alas for Albon, he too struggled and was dropped by the team at the end of 2020 despite ending his season with a run of four successive top-seven finishes including a P3 at the Bahrain GP.
Instead Red Bull brought in Sakhir Grand Prix race winner Sergio Perez as Max Verstappen’s third team-mate in as many seasons.
The team is hoping the Mexican driver will provide the consistency that will allow Red Bull to launch a two-pronged attack against Mercedes come grand prix Sundays.
Asked about Albon’s sacking, GPBlog quotes Marko as having told Servus TV: “We need two strong drivers from the start of the season in view of tactics.
“We saw at the end of last season that Mercedes could no longer afford to bring Bottas in for a pit stop just like that, because it was no longer certain that he would be able to hold his second place in the championship.
“We have to make sure that we can play this strategy from race one.
“Alexander Albon was unfortunately not consistent enough here, hence the driver change.”
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Despite his new driver pairing, Marko believes Mercedes remain the team to beat this season as the Brackley squad chases an unprecedented eighth successive championship double.
“Mercedes is definitely the favourite,” he said.
“However, when we compare the coming season with the previous years, we are in a much better position.
“We have a car that won the last race of the previous season.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has a different take, saying he feels Verstappen’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix win, where he beat Valtteri Bottas by 15 seconds, shows that Red Bull have made great strides and are the ones to beat.
Marko says one cannot read too much into the Dutchman’s win as it was down to several factors in the Mercedes camp.
“To be honest,” he said, “I must say that Hamilton was still struggling with the after-effects of coronavirus in that race.
“In addition, Mercedes could not use the full power of their MGU-K, something that certainly played a role.”