Sergio Perez will race on with Red Bull next year alongside Max Verstappen, the Formula One team said in a statement on Friday.

The experienced Mexican driver joined Red Bull from Racing Point, now Aston Martin, and won in Azerbaijan in June - his second F1 victory after the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

The 31-year-old qualified on the front row in his second race for Red Bull at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and is currently fifth overall.

Verstappen, who has a contract to the end of 2023, is eight points behind Mercedes's seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton in the championship while Red Bull are challenging for the constructors' title.

"Checo (Perez) is a highly respected team member and his experience and race-craft are invaluable as we fight for the constructors' championship," said team boss Christian Horner at the Belgian Grand Prix.

"His integration into the wider team has been seamless and we have been impressed by his performances during the first half of the season which demonstrate what he's capable of in our car."

Max Verstappen (R) and MValtteri Bottas (L) during the first practice session

The announcement also means British-based Thai racer Alexander Albon will not be making a quick return to the seat he vacated last year.

Perez has made 202 starts in a career that includes stints at Sauber, McLaren and Force India and his experience will be an asset as Formula One moves into a new era with revised regulations next year.

"I’m really happy to be continuing with a great team like Red Bull into the new era of Formula One and it’s a great opportunity for me," he said.

"Everyone starts from zero next year with the new regulations, so my only goal is to go all the way to the top with Red Bull."

Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas set the pace for Mercedes ahead of Verstappen in Friday's opening practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Finn lapped the sylvan sweeps of the 7km Spa-Francorchamps track in one minute 45.199 seconds to edge Verstappen by 0.164 seconds.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who is locked in a tense title battle with Verstappen, the pair separated by eight points in the overall standings, was a lowly 18th, 3.025 seconds off his team-mate Bottas's pace.

But the seven-time champion, who is aiming for a landmark 100th win this weekend, was forced to abandon his flying lap after being held up by the Williams of Canadian Nicholas Latifi.