This morning Red Bull Racing officially announced the signing of former Racing Point driver Sergio Perez. After months of speculation and a busy night of strong rumors, the night before the Austrian team announced the signing via Twitter. The new acquisition leaves Thai driver, Alex Albon as Red Bull reserve and test driver for 2021.
While the news is not really surprising considering the lackluster performance of Albon this season, while those challenges may not have been entirely Albons fault, this is still a business. In my eyes, if Red Bull didn’t sign Perez, they would have sealed their fate for the foreseeable future and would not be able to compete for championships against Mercedes.
Ever since Daniel Ricciardo left the team at the end of 2018, the team has been struggling to find a suitable replacement that can hold their own against their lead driver, Max Verstappen. To replace the Australian the team promoted Frenchman Pierre Gastly from Toro Rosso into the top team, and his season went famously poor.
In the Red Bull, Gastly was constantly behind his teammate in pace and struggled heavily with both the car and the working environment. After struggling for half a season, he was demoted back down to Toro Rosso at the summer break, trading him for Alex Albon. Gastly has since matured and proven himself a valuable asset in the Alpha Tauri, even bring himself to a race win this year in Monza.
Albon shined in the latter half of the 2019 season, with some great recovery drives after incidents or penalties, most famously his first race with the team at the Belgian Grand Prix where he started from 17th die to an engine penalty and worked his way up to 5th at the finish. The rest of the season led him to a string of good results, even a possible podium at Brazil before contact near the end of the race with Hamilton sent him off track and down the grid. He finished 8th in the standings and was Awarded the Rookie Of The year trophy from the FIA.
The good vibes and momentum for Albon seemed to carry over into 2020, in the first race of the season he was fighting for the race win after his teammate retired. Ironically that fight came to an end when he came into contact with Hamilton again, ruining his race. Ever since then he has been on a downhill spiral with a few podiums here and there.
Ever since it was announced that Sebastian Vettel would be taking his seat at Aston Martin next season, Sergio Perez has been in the conversation for the Red Bull seat. Because if we know Red Bull, they don’t give many chances to improve and Alex wasn’t performing as they needed him to have a chance at challenging the Mercs. As his performance declined, the writing began to appear on the wall for the Thai driver and the conversation started to shift from if he was going to be canned, to when.
The conversation about the many and apparent flaws of the Red Bull team structure and young driver program is a fascinating one and is still a topic I plan to cover in the future with a little bit more research. I am glad they are realizing their mistakes and bringing in outside help with Sergio Perez, I hope this brings a new day for the team and brings them closer to challenging the all-mighty Mercs.
This driver change will also put into perspective the last few years of Red Bull woes if Perez excels in the car and challenges his teammate. Maybe Albon and Gastly were really just too young and inexperienced for the promotion. If he flounders like the rest of them, we know for a fact that the team needs serious restructuring and management change, we know how good Checo is and we know he is a proven talent, if Red Bull messes this one up, I do not know what to say.