Alexander Albon will be spending this season on the sidelines as Red Bull’s development and reserve driver. Yet there is a possibility that the Thai driver can make a return to a full-time Formula 1 drive in 2022. Naturally he faces competition in securing a drive for next season.
The first obvious challenger is Sergio Perez who took Albon’s seat at Red Bull Racing for 2021. It is important to note that Perez’s current deal with Red Bull Racing only lasts until the end of this season. But should the Mexican do well and wish to extend his stay with the Austrian team it could mean one less potential way back into a full-time drive for Albon.Embed from Getty Images
Next there is the AlphaTauri seat currently filled by Pierre Gasly. It is felt that the Frenchman could be tempted away and out of the Red Bull fold by offers from other Formula 1 teams, the most mentioned possible destination being Alpine. Yet this is not guaranteed as Alpine may wish to field one of its own young drivers in the team for 2022. Added to this is the possibility that Gasly either wishes to stay with AlphaTauri or be determined to get a second chance at Red Bull Racing.
Driving alongside Gasly at AlphaTauri this coming season is Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese driver having impressed in both Formula 3 in 2019 and Formula 2 last season. There appears to be a possibility that if Tsunoda does particularly well at AlphaTauri he could find himself in line to be driving for Red Bull in 2022. Either way should he do well it is more than likely that Red Bull will want to keep him as part of its roster of drivers.Embed from Getty Images
Lastly there are the various drivers that are part of the Red Bull junior programme who will be competing, or have competed, in Formula 2 and Formula 3. With a strong season in 2021 some of these drivers could make a case for driving in Formula 1 in 2022. Perhaps two of the most notable are Jehan Daruvala and Juri Vips.
Daruvala raced alongside Tsunoda at Carlin for the 2020 Formula 2 season and ended that campaign well with a podium finish in the Bahrain Grand Prix feature race and a race victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix sprint race. At the time of writing it has not yet been confirmed what Daruvala’s 2021 season will consist of, but if it does involve another full-time campaign in Formula 2 the Indian should be able to build on his twelfth place finish in the 2020 championship standings. It is also worth noting that Daruvala finished inside the top three in Formula 3 in 2019.
Another young driver who could be in contention for a 2022 Formula 1 drive at, most likely, AlphaTauri is Juri Vips. The Estonian had a complicated 2020 campaign where he was originally due to compete in Super Formula. Due to the pandemic however Vips ultimately didn’t compete in the series and instead made appearances in the Formula Regional European Championship and deputised for the injured Sean Gelael in Formula 2. It was confirmed by Christian Horner that Vips would compete in Formula 2 in 2021, although it hasn’t been confirmed which team. Vips impressed in his eight races in Formula 2 last season, the highlight being the Tuscan Grand Prix weekend where the Estonian finished seventh in the feature race and went on to finish third in the sprint race.Embed from Getty Images
There is of course Max Verstappen’s seat with it not being impossible that the Dutchman could be lured away from Red Bull. Remember this is Formula 1, anything is possible. But at the time of writing it is perhaps unlikely it will become vacant and therefore aide in Albon’s return.
As can be seen above there are plenty of drivers competing with Albon this season to secure a seat at either Red Bull or AlphaTauri for 2022. How three of the four drivers across Red Bull and AlphaTauri do this season, as well as how Red Bull’s junior drivers perform in other racing categories will be interesting. All of which will determine what the 2022 driver lineups at Red Bull and AlphaTauri will be, and ultimately whether Albon has a chance of being a part of either next season.