Former Red Bull Racing driver Alex Albon has signed for Williams for the 2022 season and beyond.
Albon returns to Formula 1 following a year on the sidelines having been replaced at Red Bull by Sergio Perez, after a disappointing second campaign where he finished a distant seventh place in the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, 109 points behind his team-mate Max Verstappen.
Thai-British driver Albon has twice stood on a Formula 1 podium having made his debut in 2019 with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri), later stepping up to replace Pierre Gasly in Red Bull’s main outfit, following a series of less than impressive outings for the Frenchman.
Albon faced stiff competition for the second Williams drive, with Mercedes FormulaE champion Nyck De Vries rumoured to be keen on a Formula 1 move, and Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff – who has a long-standing relationship with Williams – seeking to find him a seat as a reward for his FE championship success.
For a while it seemed impossible that Albon – who continues to be contracted to Red Bull – would be allowed by Williams’ engine partner Mercedes to take the wheel of a Mercedes powered car, given the nature of the relationship between the two championship protagonists.
However, it seem that, in an effort to enable Albon to get the drive, Red Bull have agreed to pause their contractual ties with the driver (with an option to resume where they left off should they wish, once he leaves Williams).
The deal also points to a loosening of the ties between Williams and Mercedes to simply that of customer and supplier, whereas once they formed more of a partnership (albeit a fairly one-sided one!)
“Alex is one of the most exciting young talents in motorsport, yet comes with a large amount of F1 experience from his time at Red Bull. His multiple podium finishes highlight his speed as a driver, and we know he will immediately feel at home with the team at Grove.” Jost Capito, Williams CEO told Formula1.com
“Nicholas meanwhile has consistently impressed us over the past three years with his hard work, diligence, and positive attitude. He has continued to develop throughout his time at Williams and has grown into an impressive F1 driver, as seen by his points scoring finishes this season.”
Wi77iams.com’s take on Alex Albon’s move to Williams
Alex Albon arrives at Williams with three seasons of Formula 1 experience under his belt, during which time, he proved to be a driver worthy of a place on the Formula 1 grid.
The fact that Red Bull were reluctant to cut him loose altogether suggests that they hold him in high regard (although clearly not high enough regard to give him one of their four race seats ahead of Tsunoda who looks out of his depth, and Pierre Gasly who, like Albon, found himself out of favour!)
He has a tough act to follow in George Russell, who proved himself not just to be a special driver, but also a team leader who could help drive Williams forward. And this is where I’m torn on Albon’s appointment.
While he looked quick and accomplished on-track, at all times he looked like he was having to pinch himself that he was in Formula 1 at all.
He never once seemed to have the swagger that a top driver has. It appeared like he was missing some self belief – cockiness even – that he IS a top driver, and WILL conquer F1, and all the other drivers are simply skittles that he has to topple between now and the time he inevitably gets his hands on the WDC trophy.
Lewis has it, Max has it, George has it. All the top guys have it. And those who don’t, find themselves surplus to requirements fairly quickly.
I hope I’m proven wrong, but at a time where Williams find themselves in the midst of a resurgence, and on the brink of a fantastic opportunity to really make strides forward (with the new regulations in 2022), do we need someone who’s nice and polite but a little bit meek and the demeanour of a competition winner, or do we need someone a little more sure-footed and determined? I’d take the latter every time.
Either way, I hope he’s a success. Good luck Alex, and welcome to the team!
And if you’re reading this – I think I must have seen you try a hundred overtakes around the outside – just once, give it a go up the inside – You might like it!