Alex Albon has placed big bet on F1 career with new Williams contract

Sam Cooper
Reaction to Alex Albon's new Williams contract

Alex Albon's new deal will take him into his 30s.

When Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc signed new deals before the start of the season, it seemed like an obvious move for both drivers.

Despite some rumoured Red Bull interest in Norris, staying at McLaren and Leclerc at Ferrari respectively made sense. These were teams on the up, teams the drivers had been at all or almost all of their careers and teams that could potentially be in a World Championship fight in the years to come.

Alex Albon has become the latest driver to commit his “long-term” future – but there is a much bigger gamble with his decision than two of the other members of the ‘Twitch Quartet.’

There is no doubt that since Albon moved to Grove in 2022, he has revived an F1 career that looked as if it was on life support.

His time at Red Bull had seen his stock plummet and his role as test and simulator driver in 2021, including a rumoured recreation of Hamilton and Verstappen’s Silverstone collision in order to see whose fault it was, suggested we would not be seeing Albon back on the grid anytime soon but, when Williams wanted a new direction, it was the British-Thai driver they chose.

Since then, Albon has put in the best performances of his career and while he is not battling for the same positions he was at Red Bull, he has achieved far more in his two and a bit seasons with Williams then he did in all of his time in Milton Keynes.

Albon’s performances, which almost solely put Williams seventh in the Constructors’ standings last year, their best performance since 2017, saw his stock rise at a rapid rate, so much so that he was being linked with a return to one of Formula 1’s top teams.

Mooted moves to Ferrari and even a Red Bull return did not come to pass but by signing this new deal, which will take him into his 30s, Albon has tied his fate on the fortunes of Williams.

Under James Vowles, the team is undergoing a transformation and has ambitions to recapture the glory years they haven’t tasted since 1997 but with a once limited budget and now CapEx restrictions, Williams’ task is far greater than the likes of McLaren.

That McLaren and Williams comparison is a fair one. Decades ago, the British constructors were battling it out for titles with the Constructors’ Championship being kept at Grove or Woking from 1984 to 1993 but they both tailed away in the 2010s. Now, McLaren is back on the rise while Williams feel a couple steps behind their old rival.

Norris and Albon is also a fair comparison, even if the latter is a few years older, and while Norris is now winning races, Albon has yet to score a point this season.

Despite this, Albon was confident that the team has what it takes to be back at F1’s top table.

He said: “I am incredibly happy to be remaining with Williams Racing and to continue working with such a talented and dedicated team of people.

“It has been a difficult start to the year but since joining Williams we have made significant progress together and I have seen the huge changes happening behind the scenes to take us back to the front of the grid.

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“This is a long-term project that I really believe in and want to play a key role in which is why I have signed a multi-year contract.

“The journey will take time but I am confident we are building the right team to move forward and achieve great things in the years to come.”

By staying with Williams, Albon has gambled his F1 career on their upturn. While the Ferrari door was shut and a return to Red Bull never materialised, Albon’s decision to stay with Williams has shown his commitment to the team but also ruled him out of swapping to any other constructor anytime soon, including the likes of Audi who may have been interested in the 28-year-old’s services should the pursuit of Carlos Sainz fall through.

This contract will see Albon through what will presumably be him at his peak and while he has not played it safe by committing to Williams, the rejection of other teams speaks volumes as to how much faith he has in the team to come good.

But there is a lot of work to be done. Vowels’ insistence to mention CapEx as a limiting factor to the team’s progress at almost every opportunity is a telling factor of the organisational issues behind the scenes and the revelation that up until recently they were using Microsoft Excel further shows how far behind their competitors they are.

Vowles is clear, he has a plan to return Willaims to the front but the question is: how long will that take? Catching the current top teams as they are is one thing but to do that with essentially one hand tied behind your back while they make full use of the latest cutting edge technology means this will be a lengthy process.

Albon renewing is undoubtedly a huge plus for Williams who rely on the driver for not only points but help with development.

Time will tell to see if Albon gets as much out of the new deal as the team does.

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