Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has made a U-turn, now saying he will only allow Alex Albon to join Williams if Red Bull release him.
At the Dutch Grand Prix, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner revealed attempts were taking place to land Albon a place on the 2022 grid, naming Williams and Alfa Romeo as the options.
Williams are apparently Albon’s preference, but Horner said Mercedes were trying to prevent the move from happening.
Horner claimed Albon had been called “four times” by Mercedes, who were telling him not to join Williams – a clash of interests stemming from Mercedes’ engine supply deal with the Grove outfit.
Initially though, Wolff denied any attempts to block Albon signing with Williams for 2022, adding he wants to see the Thai driver back on the grid.
Complicating matters though was Nyck de Vries, the Mercedes-backed driver who is also in the running for a Williams seat.
Wolff has now said Red Bull must release Albon from their programme if he is to be allowed to join Williams.
“It’s one thing about the power unit and I think Albon, as I said yesterday, is a driver that deserves a seat in Formula 1,” Wolff told reporters at Circuit Zandvoort, quoted by The Race.
“But it’s tricky to have a 100 per cent Red Bull driver on a Mercedes power unit. So, happy to work with him, as long as they let him free from his Red Bull contract.
“And on the other side, we are supporting Nyck de Vries obviously and he’s in talks with Williams to get the seat there. So there’s quite some balls in the air.”
Wolff also shed some light on Mercedes’ contact with Albon over the Williams talks, calls which Horner had told Albon to “ignore”.
But according to Wolff, Albon has been in “regular contact” with Gwen Lagrue, head of the Mercedes junior programme.
“Alex is in regular contact with Gwen Lagrue, who is running our Mercedes junior programme, and they were discussing with James Vowles, our head of strategy, the opportunities for next year,” Wolff stated.
“Things get always…tweaked, in a way. He wasn’t told to do or not do anything, it was just exploring the opportunities for Alex and for Nyck in an amicable way between Alex and the group.”