Mercedes deny blocking Albon’s Williams move

Date published: September 4 2021 - Michelle Foster

Alex Albon standing in front of a photo of himself. Zolder August 2021

Toto Wolff has denied trying to block Alex Albon’s F1 return but concedes the Thai driver is “probably” standing in the way of his own man, Nyck de Vries.

With Red Bull having confirmed its 2022 line up, sticking with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, and AlphaTauri’s believed to be a mere formality, the team retaining Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, Red Bull reserve driver Albon has again been left out in the cold.

Although Red Bull did put him in DTM this season, with Albon winning at the Nurburgring, both the team and the driver would like to him back on the F1 grid.

Team boss Christian Horner believes there are two options, Alfa Romeo and Williams, with the latter being Albon’s “preference”.

But he says there “are a few hurdles. He’s had about four phone calls telling him not to go there from the team next door [Mercedes]. I told him to ignore them.”

He added: “We are working really hard to get him a seat, I really hope that Mercedes don’t block his opportunity at Williams.”

Wolff, however, has denied this.

Although he wasn’t asked directly if there had been “four phone calls” to Albon, he was asked about the situation given that he is chasing a race seat for his own driver, Formula E champ de Vries.

The Mercedes motorsport insisted he would “never” block Albon’s return to F1 but did concede that the Thai driver’s 2022 plans could have a direct impact on de Vries’.

“I guess at the moment it [de Vries’ future] revolves around Alex Albon who, as Christian says, deserves a seat; he is a really good kid, and he is probably the main protagonist in the… [musical] chairs,” said Wolff.

“I would never block someone like Alex Albon.

“He’s a fantastic guy, personality is great, I was personally sad to see him going [in 2020], and if he has a chance in a Formula 1 car I think that’s the right thing to do.

“But equally, maybe Nyck has. So we’ll have to look at the open spaces at Alfa and at Williams and try to find a solution.”

He added: “I think it’s the ordinary course of business. Williams has a Mercedes engine, that is clear, and we have Nyck de Vries, a Dutch driver that deserves to be in Formula 1 equally.

“I guess this is two interest groups that just have to find a solution.”

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Both Alfa Romeo and Williams are expected to have seats open for next season with Alfa Romeo potentially having an all-new line up.

With Kimi Raikkonen announcing his retirement, that has opened the door for Valtteri Bottas to head to Alfa Romeo, freeing a spot at Mercedes for George Russell.

A Williams seat is therefore open, but so too could another Alfa Romeo seat with the team reportedly thinking about dropping Antonio Giovinazzi.