Sergio Perez has secured the coveted second Red Bull seat for the 2021 Formula 1 world championship.
The deal confirms the drawn out speculation that the team has axed Alex Albon from their line-up, leaving the Thai driver without a drive for next season.
Albon’s position within the team has been under fire all season as he struggled to match the performance expected of a driver steering a race-winning car.
Next year he will be demoted to being the team’s test and reserve driver.
“Alex is a valued member of the team and we thought long and hard about this decision,” said Christian Horner.
“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.
“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.”
For Perez, Red Bull had quickly emerged as his last-ditch hope to cling on to a spot on the 2021 grid.
The Mexican was dropped midway through the season by Racing Point, which opted to replace him with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Despite often convincingly defeating his younger teammate Lance Stroll, Perez’s experience and seasoned results were worth little given his former team is owned by Stroll’s billionaire father.
Nevertheless, Perez earned his maiden grand prix victory this year in a chaotic Sakhir Grand Prix, which saw him charge from last to first.
He was then the centre of a heartfelt moment in the season finale at Abu Dhabi where he bid farewell to his Racing Point mechanics, knowing his time in the sport was numbered.
In the build-up to the season finale, the 30-year-old conceded that he had reduced his options for 2021 to either a drive at Red Bull or a year out of the sport.
But Perez’s upturn in form overlapped with Albon’s struggles, and Red Bull were left with no alternative but to give an out-of-contract Perez his last remaining ticket back onto the grid.
“The chance to race for a championship contending team is something I have been hoping for since I joined F1,” said Perez, “and it will be a proud moment to step onto the grid in Red Bull colours.”
Perez now becomes the first driver to sign for Red Bull from outside of its junior team, Toro Rosso, since Mark Webber joined from Williams in 2007.
Likewise, 2021 will see him be the fifth different teammate to stand-up against Max Verstappen, a fearless racer and often heralded as one of the best on the current grid.
Only one seat remains to have a driver contracted for it next season, which is the second Mercedes drive filled by Lewis Hamilton for the last eight seasons. However, the defending world champion is expected to announce a new contract with the team shortly.