Sergio Perez’s performances in the 2020 Formula 1 season made him simply “impossible to ignore” for a 2021 race seat, says Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
Announced on Friday as a Red Bull driver for next season, Perez will be replacing Alexander Albon as Max Verstappen’s teammate after a campaign that saw his reputation skyrocket.
Equipped with Racing Point’s ‘Pink Mercedes’, the Mexican finished fourth in the championship with 125 points, and secured his maiden Formula 1 victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Albon, in his first full season at the energy drinks outfit, could only manage seventh with 105 points, and while Horner indicated his team still has faith in the Thai, the numbers made the decision for them.
“The decision has been an incredibly hard one,” he said after the announcement. “I think all of us wanted to see Alex succeed. What we said was that we would give Alex the season, and not make any decisions before, to have a complete set of data. And that’s obviously what we did.
“But when you look at the data, and you look at the ratio between the two drivers, it was a decision that was obviously very much driven by that.
“It was just impossible to ignore Sergio’s performance in the Racing Point over the course of the year, and particularly, in the second half the season.
“So a very, very difficult decision, made even harder by the fact that Alex is a such a lovely guy.
“But he remains an important part of the team, and very much part of the team for 2021, focusing primarily on 2022 development.
“And, of course, he’ll be very focused in terms of making himself a contender to be back in 2022.”
Perez, 30, is a ten-year veteran of F1, and Horner praised his ability to extract results, despite regularly having less-than-optimal cars under him.
“He’s a very rounded driver now and I think he has an uncanny ability to over deliver in machinery he has had available to him,” he said of the Mexican.
“If you look at the amount of podiums and success that he’s had over the over the years, I think he’ll be a good addition to the team. I think it shows again, our determination to field a competitive team against Mercedes next year.”
As to the question of how Perez would gel with Verstappen, Horner said he had faith the Mexican wouldn’t ruffle any feathers.
“I think both parties are very realistic,” he suggested. “I think he [Perez] knows the quality of Max.
“He’s a seasoned racer now. He has a huge amount of experience and I think he knows what he’s going up against in the quality of Max.
“He’s been in immense form in the last couple of years, so I don’t think he underestimates that challenge in any shape or form. But I think he’s absolutely delighted to get the opportunity to prove himself.
“I think we want our drivers racing close to each other, but up the sharp end. It’s clear our objective isn’t between the two drivers, it’s trying to close the gap to Mercedes.
“I think Sergio raced for several seasons with Nico Hulkenberg and I don’t remember there being any issues between those two.”