Why Red Bull had to sign Perez over Albon for 2021
The news is finally out of the bag that Sergio Perez will replace Alex Albon at Red Bull for 2021.
The long, drawn-out saga over who would take up the second seat at the team alongside Max Verstappen has finally been put to bed, keeping one of the most well-liked drivers in the paddock and dropping another favourite out of a place on the grid.
How did we get to this point and why did Red Bull have no choice but to sign the Mexican? Let's take a look...
The first reason a team would want to change a driver, in any case, is always performance. Unfortunately, Albon was not up to scratch in the majority of races.
Actually, credit where it is due, a lot of the British-born Thai driver's races combined superb racecraft with dogged determination.
The problem was that most of them were because of an early mistake that dropped him down the order, a poor start or a disappointing qualifying.
All of these issues kept on resurfacing and when you finish half-a-minute plus away from your team-mate, who is overcoming a performance differential to keep the world champions Mercedes honest, it is not a good look.
Two podiums did highlight the potential Albon possesses, whilst the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi was exactly what Red Bull had been looking for since Daniel Ricciardo departed in 2018 - a rear-gunner to prevent Mercedes from gaining a strategic advantage. It was just too little too late.
It's not how you start, it is how you finish
It has to be said, Perez didn't have a stellar start to the season. Granted, he missed two rounds after contracting Covid-19, but even so, after eight races Perez had only scored 34 points and was trailing Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll.
But in the second half of the season Perez picked up 91 points, just 14 shy of Albon's total across the entire campaign, and it could have been even more but for a power unit failure in Bahrain that stripped him of a podium - ironically handing it to Albon.
In the end, when the Mexican knew his future was on the line, his fighting spirit and talent shone through. He put a marker down and said 'I should be in Formula 1'. I don't believe we saw the same from Albon.
Two podiums in a race winner vs a win and second in third-best car
The big swinging point of the saga was Perez's victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix. The race was exactly the kind Albon should have won.
With Verstappen out of the race on lap one in an incident that sent Perez to the back of the field, and with both Mercedes experiencing issues, Albon should have had the measure of the rest of the pack in a car that ultimately won two races over the course of the year and was comfortably second-best this year under his team-mate.
The excuse of being stuck in traffic is hard to take seriously when Perez sauntered his way through the pack, so why was Albon not able to take the victory?
In Turkey, Perez's second was also well deserved and not dependent on any other driver's misfortune.
As for Albon, as mentioned his third place in Bahrain was gifted, whilst in Mugello where he scored his maiden podium, the race was without Verstappen and Lance Stroll, who was on course to pass Daniel Ricciardo and ease to third before a heavy crash after a rear-end failure.
Now that the end result is that Perez is in the seat, he has to perform for the team's sake. Red Bull, after the tumultuous ride with Pierre Gasly a year earlier, was in a lose-lose situation in many ways.
If Albon was retained, people would have pointed to a driver of Perez's talent going to waste on the sidelines. Now the choice has been made, poor performances will lead to grievances from Albon's supporters who will lament another opportunity for an academy driver being disposed of too soon.
It is a performance-driven business at the sharp end of the sport though, and on that basis, this decision was a no-brainer.
After dipping his toes in at the deep end with McLaren in 2013, Perez now the second chance he has long craved with a race-contending team.
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