Red Bull has been handicapped, in one way, since the day Daniel Ricciardo left to join Renault. The team was highly competitive until 2018 when Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo drove for them. Since Daniel’s departure, the Austrian team has had a tough time finding a suitable replacement.
Red Bull promoted Pierre Gasly to replace the Australian for the 2019 season, but the French driver failed to live up to the expectations. In an unfortunate move, Gasly was demoted back to Alpha Tauri with nine races left in the season.
Alexander Albon was then called in to replace Gasly mid-season. The young Thai driver had nine races to prove himself, and he did well, thus prompting Red Bull to sign him for the next season. However, even Albon could not keep up with Max Verstappen in 2020.
As a result, Red Bull had to look outside their young driver program to replace Albon. After Sergio Perez’s inclusion, Red Bull Advisor Helmut Marko admitted that the continued betting on Red Bull Academy drivers has been a mistake.
He said, “It was a relatively short contract negotiation, it’s a one-year deal. We can step in if he gets other offers. The background is: since Max is with us, except for Ricciardo, the second car is always behind. against our philosophy. Until now, we have almost always had pilots from our program.” (quotes are translated through Google Translate)
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Red Bull hopes Sergio Perez will make them stronger
Red Bull has always relied on their Young Drivers’ Program to build championship-winning drivers. Verstappen, Ricciardo, Gasly, and Albon are all a result of that program.
However, after Ricciardo, the last two Red Bull Academy drivers have not lived up to expectations.
Towards the end of 2020, it seemed like Perez might miss out on the 2021 season. However, he conjured up some fantastic races towards the end of the season. It was enough to impress Helmut Marko and Red Bull to go out of their way and sign someone foreign to their junior academy.
Both Perez and Verstappen hope to push each other hard next season. Hopefully, with Perez and Max’s 2020 momentum, Red Bull will see both their drivers fight for the podium and force a much closer fight with Mercedes.