Toto Wolff has won his battle with Christian Horner over Red Bull-backed Alex Albon’s move to Williams.
Wolff was opposed to a Red Bull-affiliated driver joining a team with Mercedes engines, which it has now been confirmed Albon is doing – but only after being freed from his contract.
With Williams needing a replacement for George Russell, who is switching to Mercedes, reports emerged recently that Albon was top of their shopping list.
But Wolff was clearly concerned Albon might learn too much for his liking about the Mercedes power unit, especially with Red Bull launching their own engine shop next year following Honda’s withdrawal from F1.
The Mercedes team principal said during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend that while Albon “deserves a seat in Formula 1”, he was only “happy to work with him as long as they let him free from his Red Bull contract”.
It has now emerged this will be the case, although Red Bull have retained an option on Albon for the future.
Red Bull confirmed the news of Albon’s switch to Williams, to join Nicholas Latifi, by saying they had “been working behind the scenes to help Alex secure an F1 drive for 2022 in order to further aid his development”.
🗣 "I am really excited and looking forward to returning to a Formula One race seat in 2022. When you take a year out of F1 it’s never certain you will make a return so I’m extremely thankful to Red Bull and Williams for believing in me" – @alex_albon pic.twitter.com/lqxqyoTCdI
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) September 8, 2021
Team principal Horner said: “We rate Alex very highly and with our line-up for 2022 fixed, our objective was to help find him a seat in another team where he could gain more F1 mileage and experience, and we are delighted to have done that with Williams Racing.
“Alex has been a hugely valuable asset in his role as our test and reserve driver this year, helping bring performance from the simulator to the car each weekend. But for his career, it was important not to spend another season out of an F1 race seat.
“With his place on the grid next year secured, we are delighted to see him realise this opportunity and we will be following his progress closely.”
Albon will be trying to re-establish himself as a Formula 1 competitor after being dropped as Max Verstappen’s team-mate at the end of last year in favour of Sergio Perez, following a season-and-a-half with Red Bull and half a season with Toro Rosso before that.
The 25-year-old London-born Thai recorded his highest F1 finish of third position on two occasions last season, at the Tuscan and Bahrain Grands Prix.
This year, he has kept his hand in competitively by racing in DTM, winning at the Nurburgring recently, and is currently sixth in the Drivers’ standings.
Williams confirm their 2022 driver lineup!
Alex Albon will drive alongside Nicholas Latifi for Williams in 2022.