Jost Capito has insisted the talks over appointing Alex Albon as a Williams driver for the 2022 season were not as awkward as seemed at the time.
Williams needed to find a successor to George Russell, whose three-year ‘loan’ spell was ended when he was given a race seat at Mercedes as replacement for Valtteri Bottas.
Russell was consulted by Williams CEO and team principal Capito about who should fill his shoes and he gave former Red Bull driver Albon a glowing recommendation.
However, in opting for the London-born Thai, it was not an entirely straightforward process for Williams because Albon was under contract with Red Bull for 2022 as their reserve and sim driver, a role he fulfilled in 2021.
Toto Wolff, head of motorsport at Mercedes, who supply Williams with their engines, did not want Albon to be still affiliated to their big championship rivals, the Austrian also reportedly keen to find an F1 opportunity for another of his proteges, Formula E champion Nyck de Vries.
In the end, Red Bull released Albon from his contract while still retaining an ‘option’ on him for 2023.
It all sounded a bit of a pickle, but Capito says the situation was actually not as tense as it had come across.
“I discussed most of the issues with Christian (Horner) and Red Bull really wanted Alex to find an F1 seat,” Capito told formel1.de.
“That’s why the negotiations were not so difficult. They wanted to support him in his search for a seat and we wanted Alex.
“Toto also has no problem with Alex leaving Red Bull to join us. It wasn’t as hard as it looked from the outside.”
Capito also pointed out that Williams are not answerable to Mercedes when it comes to driver selection, even though the teams are entering into a closer technical partnership this year.
“We have no further obligations towards them,” said the 63-year-old German, who has retained Nicholas Latifi as Williams’ other driver for the next F1 campaign.
“It has always been clear, also with Mercedes, that the decision about the drivers lies with us.
“We choose the drivers who are best for the team. That is also in the interest of Mercedes because they also want their customer teams to perform as well as possible. There has never been any discussion about this.
“I’ve had a good relationship with Toto for many years, it hasn’t deteriorated in any way.”
What Albon brings to the Williams party
What does Alex Albon bring to Williams?