Red Bull names Sergio Perez to replace Alex Albon as Max Verstappen’s F1 teammate

Red Bull Sergio Perez
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MILTON KEYNES, England — Mexican driver Sergio Perez will race alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull next season, the Formula One team announced Friday.

Perez, who will replace Alexander Albon, became Mexico’s first F1 winner in 50 years with his victory this month at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

Red Bull said that historic performance helped make Perez the “favored choice” over Albon, who will remain with the team as a test and reserve driver. Perez has a one-year contract.

“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,” team principal Christian Horner said.

Perez, 30, was facing an uncertain future after Racing Point announced in September that it would replace him with four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.

Perez is coming off his best F1 season, finishing with 125 points in fourth place. Albon was seventh with 105 points.

In his 190th race, Perez earned his first win on Dec. 6 in Bahrain. Even then, he wasn’t sure of his future, saying “if I’m not on the grid next year, I will be in 2022.”

He won’t need to wait. Red Bull said Perez is “one of the sport’s most consistent performers and tenacious racers.”

Perez was with Racing Point, which will be renamed Aston Martin, for seven seasons after making his debut in 2011.

The 24-year-old Albon had joined Red Bull in August 2019, replacing Pierre Gasly. The Britain-born Thai racer made his F1 debut that season with Toro Rosso.

“Alex is a valued member of the team and we thought long and hard about this decision,” Horner said. “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.”

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”