Red Bull Formula 1 outcast Alexander Albon will compete in the new-look DTM series in 2021.
Albon is a two-time F1 podium finisher but was left without a place on the 2021 grid late last year, after Red Bull elected to sign Sergio Perez to partner Max Verstappen instead.
Red Bull made it clear it was not cutting Albon loose, however, handing him a test and reserve F1 driver role for this year and leaving the door open to a race return in 2022.
But in the meantime, it will field him in a number of DTM races “whenever his Formula 1 duties allow”.
“Alex Albon is a young, ambitious driver and an outstanding gain for the DTM,” said series boss Gerhard Berger, who co-owned Red Bull’s second F1 team Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) for nearly three seasons a decade ago.
Albon will be part of a two-car Red Bull entry, with the second car – of a yet-to-be-confirmed brand – taken up by Red Bull junior Liam Lawson.
A Toyota Racing Series champion and runner-up in German F4 and Euroformula Open, Lawson finished fifth in what was his second season in F1 support series FIA F3 last year.
“The DTM with a high-class field and GT3 sports cars is an interesting platform and a real challenge, both for successful race drivers like Alex Albon as for our Red Bull junior driver Liam Lawson,” said Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, who oversees its F1 driver programme.
Following Mercedes’ exit in 2018, the loss of the nascent Aston Martin entry and the news Audi would not continue beyond 2020, the DTM had to reinvent itself, ditching Class One regulations and its manufacturer focus and moving ahead with GT3 regulations instead.
Its 2021 season, which is currently poised for nine rounds of two races each, starting with Russia’s Igora Drive in late May, is set to include at least three car makes in Audi, Mercedes and McLaren – the latter set to be represented, among others, by F1 champion Jenson Button’s team.
Albon and Lawson are the first two drivers formally announced for DTM’s inaugural GT3 campaign, although the series’ reigning champion Rene Rast is one of the names that have been tipped for a drive, despite his position as an Audi Formula E works driver.