Christian Horner says it was almost always a straight choice between Alexander Albon and Sergio Pérez for the second seat at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, with Nico Hülkenberg only briefly mentioned prior to the decision.
Pérez had been ousted from his seat at BWT Racing Point Formula One Team in favour of Scuderia Ferrari outcast Sebastian Vettel and had looked set to sit out the 2021 season prior to Red Bull choosing the Mexican to replace Albon, who drops down to the reserve driver role after eighteen months with the team.
Whilst admitting Hülkenberg is deserving of a seat in Formula 1 himself, Horner says that Pérez was always likely to be the driver from outside the Red Bull programme to join the team should they opt to drop Albon from the race seat.
“No. There was no other,” Horner is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “There was a brief discussion with Nico Hulkenberg. But it’s really accelerated over the last month, I would say.
“It’s remarkable and, I mean, circumstances are a little crazy, aren’t they? Nico Hulkenberg is another capable driver that should really have a seat in F1.
“But it was our good fortune that he [Pérez] didn’t have a seat and that allowed us the time, without him having any other options that he could pursue as a race seat, to fulfil the season with Alex before making a decision.”
Pérez is the first non-Red Bull driver to join the team since Mark Webber did so back in 2007, and Horner revealed it was the lack of a suitable candidate from within the Red Bull Junior Team that made them opt for the Mexican.
“There was no candidate on the junior program that was suitable,” said Horner. “So, we decided to go outside of the program for the first time since 2007.
“It was impossible to ignore Sergio’s performance this year. I think he’s driven a great campaign. He’s been truly impressive, particularly in the second half of the season, and he’s earned the seat.
“We want to field the strongest team we can to take the fight to Mercedes, and you’ve got to do that with both cars. I think Sergio has got the necessary amount of experience, brings a wealth of knowledge to the team as well, and I think will be a good team-mate for Max next year.”