Wolff rejects Horner’s claim Mercedes may block Albon’s move to Williams

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has dismissed claims his team would act to prevent Red Bull’s reserve driver Alexander Albon joining Williams next season.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Wolff’s team could “block” Albon joining their Mercedes engine customers.

During a joint appearance by Wolff and Horner in today’s FIA press conference, the Mercedes chief described Albon as the “main protagonist” in the F1 driver market for 2022 and said he “deserves a seat”. However Horner claimed in a subsequent interview with Sky that Wolff was trying to prevent Albon joining Williams.

“We’re working hard to get him a seat,” said Horner. “I really hope that Mercedes don’t block his opportunity at Williams. That’ll be a great, great shame.”

“Alfa Romeo and Williams are the two showing a lot of interest,” Horner added. “I think his preference would be Williams but obviously there’s a few hurdles. He’s had about four phone calls telling him not to go there from the team next door. I told him to ignore them.”

While Wolff confirmed he is seeking an opportunity for Mercedes junior driver Nyck de Vries, he denied he would stop Albon joining Williams.

“I would never block someone like Alex Albon,” said Wolff. “He’s a fantastic guy, his personality is great.

“I was personally sad to see him going. And if he has [to be] driving in a Formula 1 car, I think that’s the right thing to do. But equally, maybe Nyck has. So we need to look at the open spaces at Alfa and at Williams and try to find a solution.”

Wolff’s reference to a vacancy at Williams is believed to refer to George Russell’s widely-expected move to Mercedes in place of Valtteri Bottas next season, which has not yet been formally announced.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “Wolff rejects Horner’s claim Mercedes may block Albon’s move to Williams”

  1. “So we need to look at the open spaces at Alfa and at Williams and try to find a solution” So there is a vacancy at Williams? I’m assuming that isn’t Latifi.

    1. Teams with one or no contracted drivers for next year are Mercedes, Aston Martin, AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo, and Williams.

  2. Wolff has let the cat out of the oven there.

    1. Plus the cat in the Fridge.

  3. Well yes, I think everyone knows Russell is on the move already. My guess is the only reason they haven’t announce it yet is out of respect for Bottas. Once Bottas has something signed with Alfa, I’m sure they’ll come out.

    As for Toto blocking Albon… I wouldn’t put it past him. I hope he fails at it. Even though I’d rather see De Vries at Williams. But I a sick of watching Mercedes pull the strings around other teams. I don’t like that in the current grid Mercedes-contracted drivers are a Williams and Alpine. Alpine at least seems pretty independent, but Russell and Williams have always sort of been at the pleasure of Mercedes’ wishes.

    1. @ajpennypacker Ocon is 100% under contract at Alpine, so one can’t really regard him like that anymore since joining Team Enstone.
      As for Williams: Mercedes, of course, don’t decide their drivers, although my preference is also De Vries in that team.

    2. @ajpennypacker is it really any better having Red Bull pulling the strings instead and getting to place their drivers at other teams as they please?

      1. @anon Except they can’t. Do you really think Williams would take him merely on loan?

        1. @jerejj yes, it is entirely possible that Red Bull might only loan Albon to whichever team he goes to.

          When Sainz Jr went to Renault in late 2017, he was officially still under contract with Red Bull and only being loaned by Red Bull to Renault at the time – his contract with Renault didn’t start until 2018.

          Similarly, back in 2011, when Ricciardo drove for HRT, he was still under contract with Red Bull and only being loaned to HRT for that period.

          Marko has also previously talked about loaning Albon to other teams as a third driver or if a team temporarily needs a replacement driver – that is why, when Latifi was a possible doubt for Spa after an initially inconclusive covid-19 test, Red Bull were looking at possibly lending Albon to Williams for that race.

          We have precedents for Red Bull loaning a driver to another team, and we have senior members of Red Bull’s management who have openly discussed ways of potentially loaning Albon to other teams – so I don’t see why it is so implausible that he would only be on loan from Red Bull.

          @ajpennypacker why would he have to leave Red Bull? As I note above, Red Bull have talked about options for loaning Albon to other teams in the past, and there are precedents for other Red Bull backed drivers being loaned to other teams.

          Horner has not stated that Albon would be required to leave Red Bull’s family if he drove for another team. The indication is that he would still remain under contract with Red Bull as a nominated reserve driver for their team – which suggests that Red Bull are looking at loaning Albon to another team and would not be cutting all of their ties with him.

          Also, whilst you might say “not having a pay driver in an important team”, Horner has already confirmed that Red Bull are prepared to offer a “funding package” to help Albon get a seat – so, Albon might still be technically classed as a pay driver if Red Bull’s cash does tip the balance in Albon’s favour.

      2. Albon would be out of the Red Bull family if he joins Williams. As he should. Good for Red Bull. Good for Williams. Good for F1 not having a pay driver in an important team.

    3. So how did Toto threaten Albon?
      If you sign for Williams I will cut you from the Redbull drivers programme?
      Then Albon starts to shiver and drops the pen.
      This is the most stupid statement from Horner.

      My take from it is that Williams have already signed their new driver and are awaiting other teams to make their anouncements.
      Perhaps Wolff just helping Albon out by telling him not to waste his time pursuing a dead end.

      1. Ahaha, that’s a fun one about the pen!

    4. @ajpennypacker RB burned Albon, RB are the ones who pushed him out of F1. Now they are claiming Wolff is trying to stop him from getting back into F1?

      1. Albon got every opportunity to shine and he didn’t. RB are actually being nice and helpful, unlike the situation with Vergne and many others. If they release Albon I’m sure it won’t be a loan so they would make some money on the deal

        1. Indeed, that’s my impression too.

  4. Oh how I long the days when teams were truly independent and free to choose whoever driver they thought had the most potential (or cash).

    1. It felt nauseating hearing those two talking about the seats in two supposedly independent teams.

  5. This Horner dude and his style of corporate blackmail.
    You had Albon in your team and you took him out and now you want to blame another team for why he isn’t driving in F1.

    1. Blame toto for lying and blocking albon by setting unreasonable demands on other team’s business.
      If Bernie was dead I guess toto is his rebirth..

  6. Look at these 2 talking about the Alfa seat as their own! What is Ferrari doing!! Why aren’t their drivers being talked about as being contenders for these vacant seats.

    1. @sumedh Because Alfa doesn’t have the Ferrari-status driver requirement anymore, so they’re entirely free in their driver choices.

  7. I think it’s possible he might stop him from getting a seat but indirectly. He’s got 2-3 drivers to place and there’s only so many seats. Mercedes could just decide to outbid red bull for those seats.

  8. Williams decides their drivers, not Mercedes + Horner’s claim is weird, considering no team was after Albon in 2018 until RB had driver shortage.

    1. (@jerejj) we now know toto sets the rules.
      If you drive a Mercedes you have to ask toto first when giving a lift to someone.

  9. This article begs the question why any team would ever want Albon in the first place. His only use is as a placeholder until someone better comes along. Just ask Red Bull.

  10. In other words Horner is not going to give Williams what they want from a new driver. A long term contract.

  11. I only see either Albon or de Vries in F1 next year, not both. I would place my bets that de Vries will be at Williams next year while Alex Albon will find his way to Indycar. Bottas at Alpha teamed up with one of the Ferrari Academy drivers. That is what I’m expecting.

  12. Why this urgency to get Albon back in F1? And if it’s so important to Horner, why not in one of the 4 Red Bull seats?

    We saw what Albon can do and it wasn’t impressive. In F2 Nyck de Vries already looked more impressive than Albon. So why not in F1? Maybe Nyck de Vries isn’t that much better, but at least give him a chance to show.

    1. I’ve never really understood the urgency for Albon coming back either. Don’t get me wrong Albon his shown flashes and seems to be a good guy. Just haven’t really been too impressed with him (average). I with you and would like to see what de Vries can do as well.

    2. Albon is a great driver who had the misfortune to tested with that skitish Redbull package.

      Whilst the car has improved it still leaves Albon with all his finacial backers without a F1 presence.
      Albon’s investors will be welcomed at Williams.

      1. Not as great as Verstappen, Perez, Gasly and Tsunoda, according to Horner and Marko.

      2. What about kvyat then? He was probably better than albon, now HE was unlucky with verstappen on the rise.

  13. More Redbull mind games this time aimed at Albon.

    Horner would sooner Albon, with all their secrets, remain as a reserve driver for Redbull.
    So Horner creates this last ditch senario where if Albon might find himself wihout a drive.

    This ploy is suppose to commit Albon to another year with Redbulll rather than risk this
    unsure move to williams. All this does is confirm the Russell move, and the spare seat at Williams.

    The question now is what will happen to Bottas?

  14. Debunked bulls–t from Horner.

  15. I don’t think Horner can say much here. Even if Wolff is indeed blocking the move, you’ve got 4 cars on the grid to fill with your drivers. If you don’t have room for them, tough luck!

  16. After the farce of last weekend in spa maybe all the drivers should have jumped in their sims, invited albon, defies and some others and gone at it virtually.

  17. Surely if Albon was to be in line for a seat, it would be in one of AT cars. Isn’t that what their young drive programme is for.

    Similarly isn’t Williams a de facto spot for a member of the Mercedes young driver group.

    I guess at the end of the day Williams will select the best “value” driver for any seat that it may have coming available, whether it be by the way of some sort of PU discount or straight cash, even though they are saying they don’t need to consider any form of pay driver.

  18. Why would Albon prefer Williams over Alfa?

  19. Not a surprise Horner thinks other teams should give up a seat for his driver who he doesn’t consider good enough for one of his own four seats.
    And certainly not a surprise that the so called journalists in F1; or should that be reporters or PR mouth pieces for certain teams, do not call him out on it.

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