Sergio Perez He finally got the opportunity he deserved, and while it took him longer than he would have liked, it was the perfect time.
Prior to 2020, Perez was one of the most consistent drivers on the network since joining him in 2011, climbing eight crowning podiums in midfield mechanisms and being beaten by his team-mate just three times in nine seasons. Despite this, there were questions about whether he was good enough for a big team.
When it was announced that Sebastian Vettel would replace him at Racing Point in 2021, he appeared to be heading into retirement as little more than a midfield specialist. However, this ad appears to have woken up something in Checo, from that point on, taking his game to another level entirely.
In the nine races that followed, he was arguably the best driver on the net. When he finished, he did just outside the top six once, which is impressive in itself. Moreover, in the last two of them, he crossed the line at P2 and P1, claiming his first win in an impressive charge from the back of the grid.
By the end of the season, he had scored more points than ever before, won a race and had his highest overall finish in the standings. Sure, he may have owned the most powerful F1 he has ever had, but there is no doubt that he also drives better than ever.
Often in Formula 1, drivers peak at the wrong time, but for Perez it’s the opposite. His excellent driving has earned him a seat for 2021 in the second best car on the net, giving him his biggest chance yet, and he’s more ready than ever to take it.
Getting the best of Max Verstappen has been tough and the Dutchman remains the favorite to take the top spot. However, if Checo is able to drive as well as it did in 2020, that is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Comparing the two, Verstappen is admittedly the strongest when it comes to raw speed and it’s comfortable too. However, Perez is less likely to make mistakes, and with the exception of Lewis Hamilton, he is the best on the net when it comes to managing his tires.
Moreover, with his victory in Bahrain and in other races this year, he proved to be one of the best in terms of motorcycle racing as well.
While he was forced to wait a while for his big break, it really was time for him. 2021 will be the most important season of his career and it couldn’t be better.
Alex remains a critical member of the team taking on the role of Test and Reserve Driver with primary focus on developing the year 2022 👊 pic.twitter.com/3Ih9cV8jmG
– Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (redbullracing) December 18, 2020
His prospects for 2022 are far from bleak. With Pierre Gasly likely keen to split from the Red Bull family, a seat in AlphaTauri would likely open and if so, Albon would undoubtedly be the preferred candidate to fill it.
With Perez remaining only bound for a year, there is also the possibility that the seat will become available again in the event of the Mexico struggle. In this scenario, the worst case for Albon is that Yuki Tsunoda, whom the team sees as his next potential Verstappen, takes it, allowing him to return to AlphaTauri, and the best case is that he got it himself.
In the meantime, he will be able to remain a significant part of the Red Bull family in his role as a test and reserve driver and will be the first to fill the race if one of the four drivers missed the race, whether due to COVID-19 or other causes.
Danielle Kviat bounced back from being dropped twice by Red Bull to lead two full seasons on the net, and given that there are no names in Helmut Marco’s talent pool pushing for a spot in Formula 1, there’s no reason Albon shouldn’t do the same.
However, it was a decision that would undoubtedly hurt his pride, and hurt his team in equal measure.
Not since 2007, when Mark Webber joined, signed Red Bull a driver who didn’t come through their junior team first, something Helmut Marco is proud of.
In the end, they were forced, not only by the struggles of Jasly and Alban but also by the strength of their competitors. 2022 will provide their biggest opportunity in a long time to challenge Mercedes and it is an opportunity they should give themselves the best possible chance to take advantage of.
By signing up with Perez for a year and keeping Albon, they did, leaving themselves as many options as possible. If Checo struggled, they could get back in the car, whether it’s Albon or Tsunoda. If he does well, they will keep it and have a squad more than able to challenge the German team if they have the car.
Given how awesome he looked in 2020, he could end up in history as the move that ultimately ended the Silver Arrows reign of terror.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. Either way, we’re totally intrigued to see how this works.