Alexander Albon, 2021

Red Bull must release Albon from contract before he can join Williams – Wolff

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Alexander Albon can only return to F1 with Williams next year if he is no longer contracted to Red Bull, says Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

The 25-year-old has been linked to an F1 return at Williams in place of George Russell, who is expected to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes.

While Wolff said yesterday he would not block Albon joining Williams, he confirmed today he does not want to see a Red Bull-contracted driver at a Mercedes-powered team.

“With Albon as I said yesterday, he’s a driver that deserves his seat in Formula 1,” said Wolff. “But it’s tricky to have a 100% 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.”

Mercedes is also looking to place its reigning Formula E world champion Nyck de Vries at their customer team. “We are supporting Nyck de Vries, obviously, and he’s in talks with Williams to get the seat there,” said Wolff. “So there’s quite some balls in the air.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner indicated yesterday they were prepared to release Albon in order to secure him a place on the grid next year.

“We want to see him race so we’ll accommodate whatever we can to ensure that he’s back in a race seat next year,” said Horner. “There’s always obstacles but he’s a lad that deserves an opportunity in Formula 1 next year and we’re doing our best to try and help him achieve that.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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99 comments on “Red Bull must release Albon from contract before he can join Williams – Wolff”

  1. So he is actually blocking Albon…

    1. Agreed.

      Also Cristian claiming that other teams should hire Albon while not giving him any of his 4 seats is bizzare.

      On a related point, I think we, as F1 fans get overly involved in the driver fanism part of the sport. Not that it is wrong, but the teams rivalry is equally enthralling. These 2 being the leaders of these teams have a fierce rivalry as well and it is fascinating to watch them tussle in the media.

      1. @Prab

        I think that they made a mistake by promoting Tsunoda too fast. They would be better off having Albon in the Tauri and Tsunoda in F2.

        1. Absolutely, they’d have 2 performing drivers in the minor team then, still doesn’t solve the perez problem.

        2. Toto isn’t blocking. Blocking would mean Albon won’t get a chance. What Toto is doing is setting conditions, which is quite fair. Why help a competitie? But the real interesting point is that Horner has 4 seats to offer, yet non of the seats are available for Albon and he chooses to play the blamegame.

          1. He set conditions to Williams. They are not allowed to run their own business the way they like.
            It’s quite ridiculous to be honest.

          2. Just contact the European Commission’s DG Competition, lay back and watch it play out ;)!

    2. Remember how Albon simulated Hamilton’s silverstone line through a corner, and he didn’t have the Mercedes engine. Think of what he could simulate if he knew how the Mercedes engine operates.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        4th September 2021, 19:35

        Comment of the day!

    3. And rightly so..

      Let redbull release album, and may be he will join d Williams

    4. Yeah, he was lying. Again.

    5. I read about Red Bull agreeing to release Albon of his contract if that was needed to get him the seat before I ever heard of anyone saying anything about Toto blocking something @aapje.

  2. Does anyone still believe anything that Toto says?

    1. I believe he is well aware of why RB would want to place a RB driver; a RB driver that RB clearly don’t want, in another rivals backyard.
      Given the entitlement that RB and their followers enjoy I would suspect they believe that Mercedes/Ferrari/Renault should give up their customer ‘junior driver spots’ to benefit RB’s rejects and the feedback these rejects can supply to their RB masters.
      They used to operate the same way in MotoGP. Given the choice of releasing their contracted drivers to further their careers elsewhere, they preferred having them sitting the seasons out with no ride, whilst pointing the finger of blame at the other teams.

      1. I know you have an inherent bias, but it’s kind of stupid to try and turn this around. Red Bull has four seats filled with drivers, and five drivers they want on the grid. The fact they couldn’t conjure up a 5th seat because there are other interests for the 4 remaining seat, doesn’t mean they’re wrong or somehow “entitled” because they’re trying to take care of the fifth driver as best they can.

        “They clearly don’t want” is a misrepresentation of the actual situation, and it just makes you look dumb. You can have your Mercedes bias without having to badmouth Red Bull at every turn. First you dunk on Christian for saying Toto was blocking Albon. Then when Toto outright confirms it it’s somehow Red Bull’s fault for not giving Albon one of the seats at the cost of other drivers and interests.

        What we really should be worried about here is that Toto’s sphere of influence in the sport is becoming way too great over the other players of equal level. He has interests in three different teams, owning stakes in Mercedes, Williams, and AM, has another bit of interest as an engine supplier for a majority of teams, and also acts as driver manager to a good bunch of drivers. At this point, his influence is so great he could pose a threat to FIA/FOM by being able to control a majority of decisions all by himself through all of those different places where he’s a stakeholder. This move of blocking Williams from choosing their own drivers through this control is a small but clear indication of this, and it should worry anyone no matter which team they’ve got a bias to, because who knows what happens if Toto somehow becomes displeased enough to pull all his strings into action against the sport’s best interests to serve his own?

        Reply moderated
      2. I think Redbull and its fans are in dreamland. How they can expect Toto to welcome a Redbull contracted driver with open arms to a team that uses Merc engine is beyond me. If anyone is standing in Albon’s way its Spice Boy. Spice Boy wants to help Albon, then release him from Redbull

        1. Spice Boy ????

          Reply moderated
      3. It’s not about that at all, it’s about Toto saying a few days ago that he wouldn’t block Albon, then Horner said he actually was and all the Merc/Hamilton fanboys went off about Horner and Marko just spreading rumours and are anti-Hamilton etc etc. Then, Toto comes out and was like, oh, yeah actually I was blocking Albon and now all those fans are switching like that never happened and saying yeah good job you should do that. It always happens, same with no longer developing this years car etc, he just lies all the time and all the Merc fans cry saying people are spreading rumours when he’s called out, and then try to bury the fact that he was just lying straight to all of you.

        Reply moderated
        1. But Ocon driving a Renault engine is fine?!

          1. Ocon is not under contract with Mercedes he is represented by Wulff . Also we don’t know the terms of the contract but quit possibly it is good for Renault as wel as for Ocon. Last nu not least Renault an Mercedes are not at the same level and are no real competitors

        2. Setting conditions is not the same as blocking. It is quit reasonable to ask this

    2. I don’t see any Chelsea player wearing ManCity Jerseys on the pitch.

      1. OOliverCancel nailed it here.

        We can call it Toto blocking the move if we like. But it’s obvious that he’s not going to be OK with it until he’s released. And he can’t release him from the contract, only RB can.

        I’ve got no dog in this fight. But if you forced me to choose who I felt was blocking the move, it would be the guy that controls the RB contract.

      2. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
        4th September 2021, 19:48

        Terrible analogy as players go on loan. A few seasons ago Coutinho was on from Barcelona to Bayern Munich. They faced each other in the champions league and Coutinho scored for Bayern against Barcelona.

        1. Although…. very often loan contracts stipulate the player cannot play a against the parent club.

        2. @come-on-kubica and Liverpool had a clause when they sold him to Barcelona that if he won the Champions League as a Barca player they got about £5 million. Technically he was a Barca player when he scored against them and went on to win the Champions League. Barca paid another team millions for their own player to knock them out. I’m sure the Albon situation can’t get that silly.

      3. And that’s why Albon wouldn’t remain a Red Bull driver if he got a Merc seat. Of course, we’re talking about a Williams seat so that doesn’t apply.

  3. Really don’t like the sound of this. It’s one thing if the team requires him to be a free agent. But the PU manufacturer? How do they even have a say in any of this.

    IMO the FIA should consider doing something about the influence of the big teams over the smaller ones. It’s about time.

    1. It is called protecting trade secrets..
      Imagine Albon finding out all the modes of operation of the Mercedes engine and passing that informtion to Redbull.

      1. Hasn’t Perez already done that this year?

        Reply moderated
        1. Reed Bull is clearly privy to a lot of details about the Mercedes engine all of a sudden.

      2. Red Bull hired a bunch of Mercedes engineers for their Red Bull engine program…. They’ll have more info from them than what Albon could ever provide.

        Reply moderated
      3. You mean like Perez could?

      4. A customer driver probably won’t be able to give Red Bull anything that the poached engine guys haven’t already.

  4. All very sad, political and predictable.

    1. Expanding on this, I’m fully aware and understanding that people may think that Red Bull, having two teams in F1 and therefore a significant presence, are heavily politically involved in F1’s power games. Likewise Ferrari.
      But Mercedes and Toto trump that. Through the Mercedes team and engine, through Williams and even through Aston Martin, he has his fingers in a lot of pie. It’s very sad and frustrating when that leads to driver decisions. It’s now new. But it’s unprecedented. Toto has as much power in F1 as Bernie did in the 80s with his Brabham team and the commercial rights exploitation. Or Ferrari in the pre-Concorde era. And that wasn’t healthy either.

      1. Well said. Toto has TOO MUCH power.

        1. So besides his stake in Mercedes, his influence at Williams and Aston Martin, Toto still manages Ocon as well – and Bottas. So effectively Toto will have some kind of influence over 5 different teams next year, if Bottas goes to Alfa Romeo.

          1. All hail Toto Trump!
            None of this would be an issue if Merc were not as successful as they have been. Besides… no rules are being broken. Don’t hate the player, hate the game!

          2. He has shares in Williams and Aston Martin, manages Bottas and Ocon and correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t he manage Russell as well? If not Russell is a Mercedes junior so he effectively manages him anyway. Major conflicts of interest there that I have no clue how he got away with…

      2. And now, lets have a look at that McLaren-Mercedes. The Ineos deals, the decision to not let Hamilton have a go at Formula E after retiring from F1 by scrapping the Mercedes FE team , ( well Hamilton is much smarter btw by getting his extreme E team beforehand) and all the other things Toto does to stake his claim in FiA and FoM for furthering his credentials and career.
        I feel also, that he sabotaged the strong team at Williams before the hybrid era begun so as to make Mercedes the no. 1 team with that engine.

  5. Do you see any Mercedes drivers in Honda powered cars? It’s a non story. Renault asked ocon to be released from his Mercedes contract to join them. Red bull already agreed to release him, this is a nothing burger.

    1. We saw Sainz at Renault while he was a Red Bull driver, so I don’t think this is as big an issue as it seems.

      What is Albon going to tell them about the engine that Perez hasn’t already? It’s not like they give the drivers a full technical briefing on the engine’s inner workings.

      Reply moderated
    2. Ocon is still managed by Toto!

      1. @macaque Yes, but that’s the only thing.

      2. But Ocon is no longer a Mercedes driver, and at the time, Wolff said it basically closed the door on Ocon getting a seat on the Mercedes F1 team.

        1. The Mercedes team toto can run as he see fit.
          But to set conditions for another team is ridiculous.
          Toto eclesstone…
          Bernice wolff..

    3. Rumor has it that Williams will use a Red Bull powertrain in 2022, Capito left the Red Bull motorhomes smiling broadly.
      I’d like to see Wolff try to block Albon going to Williams then.

      1. And if RB were going to supply Williams all along, what would that say about Horner’s little game?

      2. It would be impossible to switch PU suppliers THIS late into development of the 2022 car.

  6. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    4th September 2021, 18:49

    I can see Red Bull supplying Williams with Honda (aka Red Bull Technologies) powertrains with a discount if they take Albon as a driver. Mind you: that donkey in the back of the Red Bull is on-par with Mercedes.

    1. Indeed, apparently Capito visited the Red Bull motorhome and left in a very good mood.

  7. Mercedes should have no say in who drives the Williams car, they’re just their engine supplier and should have no influence or sway with what Williams choose to do with their drivers – and clearly Wolff is actually blocking Albon from going there.

    1. He is only Protecting Merc interests! All of this Will be written into the PU supply agreement with all of their customers. RB have 4 seats available. Albon is their driver. It is their responsibility to give him a drive IF they think he is worth the seat!

      1. Complete and utter nonsense. Toto can run his own team..

  8. One of the rare occasions, but I agree with Toto here.

    Albon has not been in the frame for any of the 4 Red Bull seats for 2 years now. Giving him knowledge of the Merc engine makes Albon suddenly valuable and can cause headaches to Toto later.

    Absolutely fair ask to say that Albon should be a free agent. Even Albon I feel will develop better outside of the Red Bull environment.

  9. Precisely what I’ve been pointing out. Indeed a must, as Williams wouldn’t take him on loan. They aren’t a Red Bull-owned team, after all. They may take Mercedes-linked drivers, but not others, unless they were 100% under contract.

  10. Isn’t F1 the pinnacle of motorsport? Why bother about a driver that has had its chances and could not deliver. Let Albon stay where they don’t “drive him so hard”. And please let him take those worthless pay drivers with him. F1 should feature the best drivers out there. I love F1, honestly. But it should take example of MotoGP wherein raw talent means everything. So many fast young drivers get promoted each year from Moto2. And if they don’t deliver they’re gone as quick as they came. Albon failed. Next!

      1. Perez at McLaren that is. But fortunately he was able to get another shot in a different environment and we got to enjoy watching him grow. Your attitude towards chucking drivers in the bin as soon as they fail to perform on their first attempt is like the Red Bull ethos (which I’m fine with).

        But if there’s somewhere that won’t “drive him so hard”, like Perez at FI, then personally I’d like to see him get that chance. Albon came within striking distance of Norris and Russell, despite having nowhere near the support they were getting. As a Williams supporter, I’d love to see us snatch him up.

        If he fails to get on terms with Latifi, then sure, lets give a seat to the next F2 graduate. But right now he’s far more interesting than any of those.

        1. I did not see Perez grow as a racing driver at all. He got destroyed by Jenson at McLaren and he is being destroyed by Max at Red Bull 8 years later. Makes me wonder what Verstappen could had achieved with that RP last year, which was a great car. Perez has been the most overhyped driver in F1 ever in my opinion. Thanks to the Carlos Slim marketing machine and by discretion of Sky Sports.

          F1 should feature the best drivers in the world. Not the best paying ones and not the ones that have a reputation of getting completely destroyed by their teammate.

          For Williams’ sake, I think it would be much better for them to get Bottas. He could beat Lewis only occasionally, but was definitely able to follow a 7x WDC. Which is not bad given who he had to go up against. And while they are at it, they can replace Latifi by De Vries. Bottas is better than Albon for sure. He has speed, experience and is no walkover. While De Vries earned his chance to proof himself in F1 more than some drivers that are currently in it. If he doesn’t deliver: next! That’s how F1 should be.

  11. I thought (assumed) it was a given that in order for AA to go to either Williams or Alfa Romeo he’d have to be released from being under Red Bull’s wings.

  12. Toto’s going to be furious when he finds out that someone’s been saying the exact opposite.

    1. @red-andy Lol, yeah that guy. Seems like Wolff has become a compulsive liar.

      1. I am surprised why Toto gets away with all these things but Christian horner is hated for the same.

        Reply moderated
  13. My final thoughts on this:
    Red Bull must have made George a serious offer for the 2nd Red Bull seat, which made Wolff take the final decision to put George in the Mercedes.
    Toto is just making Christian pay for this now.
    Their rivalry is getting tiring, but with Wolff’s monopoly over F1, it’s difficult to hope Ferrari will make a comeback next year to shut Wolff & Horner up. But one can only hope.

    1. @macaque Highly unlikely. I’m pretty sure GR has been a shoe in for that seat as a Mercedes driver and most in the paddock know and expect that, and CH would know there would be no point trying to ‘go there.’ Pretty sure GR would be loyal to Mercedes and much more stoked about going to there to be the heir apparent to LH, and that even if he is to take a back seat to LH that will be temporary due to LH’s likely retirement in a few seasons, which would not be the case going to RBR. Sure, if TW sat GR for another season at Williams perhaps he’d start to feel tempted to switch allegiances, but no, I get the impression GR is only focused on VB’s seat.

  14. Err, Mercedes boss blocks Red Bull from paying an Williams driver.

    This just shows everything wrong with F1.

    Bottas will be released before going to Alfa Romeo – Ferrari?

    There is to much power in hands of one team, to the point where normal competition is not possible.

    1. @jureo Mercedes boss is looking for a seat for a Mercedes protégé at a team they have an alliance with for things like this. Then he gets attacked with some foul corporate black mail by Horner that he should block Albon. Seriously?! Let Horner deal with his own 4 seats (way too much power for one team!) and place his cannon fodder in one of those

  15. The way Albon has been treated by Red Bull, it would be in his best Interest to get out of that team as fast as possible. The only person stopping this deal is Horner.

    1. Agreed. Albon will do well to get out of there – but I don’t know if Williams are in a position to pay that much for a driver. It’s annoying that Toto has so much of a say over more or less half the field.

  16. The nerve of Wolff to decide what another team should and shouldn’t do is incredible, but that’s just more of the Mercedes ‘values’ he is always going on about.

    1. Come on Balue! I know you like a giggle but give your head a wobble! Toto, love him or hate him, has to look out for Mercedes interests. Why arent RB putting Albon in 1 of their 4 cars? You know the answer to that. He’s not good enough. Horner and Marko just want to put a spanner in the works for Mercedes. Would RB take Ocon on loan? Or Russell on loan? No! And quite rightly.

      1. I wouldn’t expect Mercedes to take a Red Bull driver but Williams isn’t Mercedes. A few days ago they were talking about what it meant to be a true, independent team. Was that just all BS and actually, they’re Mercedes B Team?

      2. It’s you who needs to sort your head as this is about Albon going to Williams, not Mercedes. Mercedes is an engine supplier to Williams. Williams decides for Williams.

        If it is so vital for Wolff who is driving for the backmarker team, why isnt he trying to get his man Bottas back to Williams, but instead want him at Alfa Romeo?

        This is just about ego in his little taff with Horner. Using (abusing) his power to do so.

        1. “Williams decides for Williams”?
          Not if they want to use Mercedes PUs it seems. None of this will be a surprise to Williams or RB. Things like this will be written into the PU supply contracts and it is not unreasonable. Williams wanted a PU. Mercedes laid down terms and price. Williams accepted. Notice Williams havent commented on this? Good bit of anti Merc PR from from Ginger Spice though.

          1. Things like this will be written into the PU supply contracts

            Source?

      3. It’s also Williams wanting Albon in stead of a rookie like De Vries.

        Same with Alfa Romeo Racing where both drivers are named as a possible replacement for Giovinazzi and Vasseur rather would have an experienced driver like Albon in stead of De Vries. Or Giovinazzi if Ferrari pays up.

  17. Albon was in the red bull academy because of the Yoovidhya family, from Thailand, they are owners of 51% stake in the RedBull brand and they were delighted by the idea of a Thai driver.
    Tsunoda is there because Honda wanted a Japanese driver on F1, that has been surely used as a bargaining chip in the Honda deal and the subsequent Honda/red bull power train transition.
    Too many people to please and the spice boy needs to keep them both in F1 at all costs. The problem is: is he allowed to split the RedBull/Albon connection without disappointing his RedBull owners?
    I would say, my personal preference: Valtteri at Williams and Alex at Alfa/sauber.

    1. If Albon was in the Red Bull junior program because of his Thai roots, they wouldn’t have dropped him from the program years ago.

      He only came back to Red Bull in F1 because they were out of options after they dropped Hartley and Ricciardo jumped ship to Renault.

      1. I said ‘red bull academy’ not F1. This is the reason why he became the next in line for F1 when they ran out of options. Now they need to find him a seat at all costs because of sponsor pressure.

  18. “We are supporting Nyck de Vries, obviously, and he’s in talks with Williams to get the seat there,” said Wolff.

    So… Toto. You just admitted there’s a seat open at Williams next year. Good job on keeping that secret. :)

  19. Got to admire those like Horner and his disciples who are fighting the good fight for Albon against a backdrop of their repeated insistence over the last year and a half that Albon is not good enough for one of their four seats.

    1. Vettel, Ricciardo, Sainz, Versteppen , Gasly, Tsunoda, six drivers from RBR academy. 30% of the 2021 F1 grid is made up of them , Albon would make it 35% in 2022 if all goes to plan.. and when Gasly is retired from Alpha to join other squads, it would be 40%. Not a concern, rather an achievement.

      Ferrari academy has lecrec, gio,per,stroll,mick -5
      Renault academy – Ocon, Kubica – 2
      Williams academy – Latifi, Bottas- 2 to maybe 0 in 2022.
      McLaren academy- Norris, Hamilton
      Mercedes academy – Russell

      1. Isnt/wasnt ocon a Merc academy driver? He now drives for Apline but wasnt in their “Academy”. You count Vettel, RIC & Sainz as RB Academy drivers but they, like Ocon, now drive for different teams. Maybe you can clarify this?

        1. Vet, Ric, Sai, Alb are prepared by RBR to enter F1 and that’s how they got their place, and moved up, that’s my point, just like how many graduates of a particular university get placed in fortune 500 companies, I think that clarifies my point, that RBR academy can stake the claim of being the best in racing business.
          As for Ocon, I might not be totally wrong but his career path has been a bit complicated :

          “At the age of 14, Ocon was signed up to Renault Formula 1 team’s sister company Gravity Sports Management.”
          “In 2014 he was a part of the Lotus (Renault) Young driver programme or scheme”
          https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/lotus-esteban-ocon-exceptional-in-first-formula-1-test-5046171/5046171/

          “In 2015, Ocon would win the GP3 series despite just winning one race all season and forged a closer connection with Mercedes in the process, joining their young driver programme.”
          Since then he has been managed by Toto Wolff (who himself calls this situation a bit complicated).

          https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.wolff-says-ocon-growing-at-alpine-but-admits-weird-situation-complicates.4P6jcohdFBPy8qB3T4KoPC.html

          and as per this F1.com article he has been a Lotus academy driver since 2010 : https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/headlines/2014/10/Ocon-earns-Lotus-test-after-F3-triumph.html

          Reply moderated
  20. Fortunately Toto has no shares in Williams anymore, so has no say in it. Ir will he block Williams to use Mercedes engines?

    It is my understanding that Albon had a seat fit at Williams (according to Dutch TV) and that Capito was at Red Bulls motorhome yesterday,may be signing ir agreeing a contract. Albon was even in the running to replace Latifi at Williams last week after a (ultimately false) positive test.

    1. He still has shares in Williams

  21. Reversal of the Ocon situation a couple of years back.

  22. all of this while still not having announced Russell at Mercedes… ok?

    1. Sounds about right. Announce Russell when the decision was made some time ago and everything that follows is of lesser import, and in some cases just a footnote to the main story. The first domino has fallen (Kimi) so maybe we will get his replacement announced by Alfa next week, then George after that. And this is probably subject to the Albon/De Vries/Gio situation being sorted.
      Besides, is there anyone out there who doesn’t know George is off to Merc in 22?

  23. I think a lot of people are missing the bigger picture, Toto wolf has substantial influence over F1 teams and drivers which isn’t good for the sport, its not illegal but as you know power corrupts.

    Reply moderated
  24. There shouldn’t be this degree of influence of a power unit provider in a customer team.

    1. @pinakghosh Mercedes has become technical partner for Williams, that’s a lot more than simply providing a power unit. Besides they seem to have an arrangement for putting drivers up at Williams.

      Why does Horner feel the need to blackmail Mercedes out of a seat they could arrange for one of their drivers when Horner has 4 seats available himself?

      1. @f1oclown

        Why do Williams feel the need to hire a driver who is tied to Red Bull?

        As far as we know, Horner is just making it possible for Albon to gain more experience.

        The real question is: Why is Toto interfering with the decisions of Williams, who, last I checked are an independent team?

        Well?

        Reply moderated

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