Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021

Horner hopeful Albon can take Williams seat without splitting from Red Bull

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is hopeful Alexander Albon’s contract with the team won’t prevent him joining Williams next season.

Horner’s opposite number at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, said this weekend Albon must be released from his contract in order to join their engine customer next season. Wolff’s stance is “slightly unusual” but a “huge influence” said Horner when asked about the situation by RaceFans.

“But I’m assured that Williams choose the drivers that they wish to drive in the car and they don’t have restrictions,” he added.

Albon has had interest from Williams and Alfa Romeo over a 2022 seat. Asked whether Red Bull would have to release Albon from his contract to join Williams, Horner said: “Maybe we don’t. We’ve had very productive discussions with Williams and with Alfa and I expect the situation to hopefully be resolved in the next week or so.”

“I think his preference would be Williams,” Horner added. “But it’s great that there’s interest in him and I think it would be good to see him in back in a race seat.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said manufacturers should not try to exert influence over their customer teams as to which drivers they select.

“I believe that whatever is happening between a team and a driver that’s between the team and a driver and as manufacturers, we should not influence,” he said. “I think that would be wrong.

“If a driver has got an opportunity to drive he should simply have an opportunity to drive, wherever it is coming from and if the team is happy to give him a seat, they need to give him a seat. That’s it.”

The Sauber-run Alfa Romeo team’s choice of driver line-up, including the presence of Ferrari Driver Academy member Antonio Giovinazzi, had not been directed by their engine supplier, said Binotto.

“Ferrari have never a word on the ‘Ferrari seat’ on Alfa,” he said. “It was a contact between Alfa Romeo, so it was a right of the sponsor Alfa Romeo on the Sauber car.”

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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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56 comments on “Horner hopeful Albon can take Williams seat without splitting from Red Bull”

  1. The way Wolff openly exerts pressure on Williams is actually disgusting and completely against the DNA of F1. They are an independent team!

    Very telling that he doesn’t practice what he preaches if we’re led to believe De Vries could end up in a Ferrari powered car…

    1. its been like this for decades. RB have TR/AT, ferrari have sauber, honda had super aguri. On paper they are all independant teams but they still function like jnr/snr squads. Williams right now is has a vested interest from merc as they supply their engines and their team leader is a merc driver.

      1. It is different, Williams is not owned by Mercedes.

        RB, Alfa Tauri are sister teams, Alfa Romeo is much more independant, Mick Schumacher had to find a seat with Haas for example.

        1. you mean this happened before? Mercedes driver driving redbull/honda engine and vice versa? It may not suit you but this is how the business and competition goes.

      2. It depends on what contracts exist between Williams and Mercedes; does Williams get a price break on the Merc engine because they are running Russell? If so how does this apply to next season?
        Maybe Merc as it stands right now do have some sort of say in the driver, but this may disappear as soon as Russell goes to Merc & the engines may go up in price…
        I am sure they aren’t going to tell us though!

    2. Team bosses exerting political pressure is kinda the DNA of F1

      1. Haha that is true tbf

    3. why people don’t just support Albons split from RBR instead of criticizing Toto. He is doing everything on his hand to protect his business, your ideas are not interesting to him.

    4. But it is considered acceptable for Red Bull to pressure that same team into appointing their driver instead?

    5. @cduk_mugello So when Wolff is trying to find a seat for Nyck de Vries it’s disgusting, but when Horner needs a fifth seat for one of his already failed drivers then that’s fine?

      It’s disappointing how people lap up this propaganda from Horner and then bend all logic to pretend it actually makes sense.

      1. @f1osaurus very strange comment directed at me; I haven’t even mentioned Horner.

        I maintain it’s not sporting to assert pressure on a third party to NOT hire a driver, as you’re unhappy that they have links to your rivals.

        1. @cduk_mugello Well the fact that you do not call out Horner’s hypocrisy is exactly the point.

          You are outraged when Wolff does it, but you don’t even mention Horner doing exactly the same. Well worse really since Wolff doesn’t have 4 seats and he’s hoping Nyck de Vries can race at Williams. While Horner has 4 seats and already rejected Albon to begin with.

          1. @f1osaurus Apart form the fact I don’t need to comment on every angle to a story, the other reason I don’t need to mention Horner is that as long as you’re around, this site has fulfilled its quota of people moaning about Horner! Hahaha

          2. @cduk_mugello Well if you specifically smear Wolff then why not add Horner?

            The reality is that this is a totally normal situation. Each team boss is trying to get their driver a seat with a third party team. Yet you blaspheme Wolff for doing so and you lap up Horner’s corporate blackmail/propaganda on how his protege is being wronged. Sad really that you fall for that and don’t even realize after it is pointed out to you that you did.

          3. @f1osaurus

            I think this discussion is about done. I haven’t lapped up anything Horner has said. I haven’t even commented on it. Funny how triggered you are by such an innocuous comment though.

            Anyhow, that you use ‘blaspheme’ (speak irreverently about God) in reference to Toto Wolff tells you everything you need to know hahaha.

          4. @cduk_mugello There was no “discussion” it’s just you trying to lame out of being embarrassed. That never works. You just made it worse.

    6. Mercedes supplies Williams their power units, so of course they want to protect their property.

      If Albon moves to Williams and still retain loyalties with Redbull, then its a clear conflict of interests.
      There is no way Mercedes would allow this and Horner knows this.

      Horner knows he has a quality driver in Albon but would sooner he remained at Redbull in a support capacity
      than release him from his contract. Hense the mindgames. There’s also a question of what Albon knows about
      the Redbull power units. Redbull would be reluctant to release Albon for those reasons too.

    7. The first and most important question one has to ask is this; why doesn’t Mr Horner release Albon from his RB contract so he is free to join another team? Why and for what purpose does he want to have Albon with 2 contracts???
      So irrespective of what Toto says or doesn’t say, if Horner thinks Albon is too good to let go, then give him a seat! Otherwise release him so he can freely join another team without the trappings of his current.
      If my memory serves me right, Mercedes had to release Ocon from his affiliation with them so he could join Renault (now Alpine).

  2. I can see why Albon is wanting to go to Williams, they’ve definitely have been showing much improvement after new ownership, finishing better than Sauber and the new will that Williams team has to do better; plus they’re a UK based team as opposed to Sauber in Hinwil, Switzerland.

    Disappointing to see so much influence outside of Williams on who they can choose as a driver.

    1. PS> It’s really unfortunate to read Toto/Merc and Horner/RB on what they’re doing with Albon and how they’re acting. I would be really bummed if their shenanigans effects Albon’s chances from getting a seat in F1. Maybe RB should release Albon from contract? And Wolff stop interfering so much.

      Could one factor be for Merc/Wolff not wanting to see a Red Bull logo in a Merc powered F1 car (Albon’s helmet & suit)?

      Remember Red Bull is now a PU motor F1 supplier and I would think that would be a conflict of interest for Merc? Especially if RB starts seeking more teams to supply engines to.

      Wouldn’t that be like seeing a Ford logo in a Chevy powered car in Nascar?

      Like seeing Brendon Hartley’s Red Bull’s helmet while driving a Porsche LMP.

      1. Remember Red Bull is now a PU motor F1 supplier and I would think that would be a conflict of interest for Merc? Especially if RB starts seeking more teams to supply engines to.

        This is probably the reasoning behind Wolf insisting RB cut their ties with Albon – I can imagine Mercedes being less than impressed when the 3rd driver and simulator driver for Red Bull will be able to give RB feedback about their engine so they can better compete with Mercedes there in the future every time he comes to Red Bull tech to drive the simulator.

        There was also some kind of agreement around Ocon when he went to Renault – since he is also contracted to Mercedes – the parties made some kind of deal.

        1. @bascb

          It has been far from impressive on how it’s been played out in the press with Wolff and Horner shenanigans, I feel bad for Williams and Albon.
          However, I cant blame Merc asking Red Bull to release Albon from his RB contracts & obligations to drive in a Merc PU car; maybe Albon would need to pay off RB for any monies owed? He did have a contract to drive RB cars in DTM series.
          If Horner & RB truly mean what they said about wanting the best for Albon and wanting him to get a seat somewhere, then maybe they shouldn’t be putting up such a stink, putting themselves first and just let him go and not risk him getting the chance of getting a seat.

          Also, Not sure how Albon thought this was going to work with Williams when he was still contracted with RB?

          1. Very solid comment there @redpill. I pretty much agree with all of that

            I would imagine Albon just wants to get a go in a team like Williams, race, help the team get further up that grid, learn his own lessons, build up and achieve something without the pressure cooker that is being fast-forwarded into a winning Red Bull and “let’s see if he can get close to max”.

            As you mention, if Horner means it with giving Albon a fair shot, he should allow that to happen. They can always put in a clause that Red Bull has first call on him if he separates from Williams in the future. Or even that they have an option to call him back (with compensation) if they need him to step into the winning Red Bull. That kind of thing is pretty regular

  3. Back in 2018 Mercedes and Pascar Wehrlein decided to split ways in order for the German easier to find an F1 cockpit for 2019 without contractual complications. He was on Toro Rosso’s (not so) short list of 10 drivers for the 2019 season, but not so surprisingly he missed out on that opportunity and ended up in Formula-E instead. It was unusual enough that he was able to secure a 2017 Sauber drive still being part of the Mercedes programme.
    (Different) divisons of Red Bull and Ferrari are however cooperating in DTM with Albon behind the wheel, which might suggest that the Ferrari powered Alfa Romeo (seat) could be the one they can arrange for him without splitting from Red Bull, and De Vries can end up in a Mercedes powered Williams maybe?

    1. You’re right. Albon/Alfa Romeo & De Vries/Williams situation makes more sense.

      However, sometimes logic doesn’t apply to F1. Too many hidden interests in The Pirannha Club.

  4. So Horner would like an RB contracted driver to spend the next couple of years sitting in with the Mercedes engineers within Williams to explore and discuss every aspect of the Mercedes powertrain.

    1. Well Toto had no issue with doing the same to both Ferrari and Renault!

      1. Yeah, while having the best engine one would not be interested to exploit inferior engine.

  5. Can’t see this happening, especially given Red Bull won’t be supplying Williams’ powertrain.

  6. Horner has four seats available to Albon. So the whole discussion seems a bit absurd. And two of those seats are filled by people not performing well. Why don’t they give him Tsunoda’s seat? Horner basically wants to loud-talk Mercedes into creating a fifth seat for his program drivers.

    1. Indeed. Toto is not the one being unreasonable here.

    2. This. Seriously, RB has fired ppl for better performance in the past, and albon would fit well back at AT, if they still see any potential in him. Who knows, what if he does a Gasly? But no, they drum up the Williams option so loud… its just a bit surreal.

    3. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
      6th September 2021, 6:09

      +1
      And if Horner is so adamant on finding Albon a seat, he might as well make him a reserve driver at AT. I guess there is nothing in the rules preventing a team from contracting 3 drivers and having them do 14 races each (in a 21 race season). Not that AT has drivers fighting for the WDC.

    4. Because then everyone would cry about them ruining another career by getting rid of Tsunoda too early.

      They’re doing what people asked for by giving him a longer chance

      1. If tsunoda didn’t have the backup of Honda he would have been gone already (Marko?). That is the reason why they didnt put albon back on AT

        1. Agree. It seems like some people still think that Tsunoda and Albon are in the RB orbit for their ability to drive a F1 car. How naive.

  7. Albon has had interest from Williams and Alfa Romeo over a 2022 seat. Asked whether Red Bull would have to release Albon from his contract to join Williams, Horner said: “Maybe we don’t. We’ve had very productive discussions with Williams and with Alfa and I expect the situation to hopefully be resolved in the next week or so.”

    “I think his preference would be Williams,” Horner added. “But it’s great that there’s interest in him and I think it would be good to see him in back in a race seat.”

    Letting Albon move to Alfa would be of no use to RB as they are supplied by Ferrari. But the Williams Merc deal is not as solid and changes are coming. So yeah having a RB driver would give them leverage over Williams if things change in the future. Same reason why Wolff wants the ties between RB and Albon broken.

  8. I don’t get the Red Bull system. Tsunoda could easily be replaced by Albon. Perez has shown moments of greatness but probably not enough to keep the seat at Red Bull. Gasly has outdriven Albon last year and Perez this year but Red Bull seem unwilling to bring him up to the big team again. If it were me I’d put Gasly back in Red Bull’s number 2 seat, Perez and Albon at Alpha Tauri. Tsunoda needs more time to mature but he could return to F1 in few years. If I were Gasly I’d want out of the system and try to join a team on the rise if I could.

    1. They still need Honda @g-funk, their own operations for the engine will only start to ramp up in the next half a year or so, until then they need Honda to build the powerplats etc, then they need Honda to support the ramp up and hand over all the know how that they need to continue. That is pretty much the only reason Tsunoda isn’t out at AT already, I would say.
      Red Bull is hardly the entity that ever gives drivers time to mature if they can help it.

  9. Again, how rude to tell Williams what they should and shouldn’t do. Wolff really is becoming a megalomaniac.

    Agree Red Bull should put Albon alongside Gasly at AT, but Honda is still a partner for a while, so they can’t.

    1. When toto was not allowed to work at fia he decided to become toto Ecclestone.
      To much influence in to many teams.

    2. They arent “telling William’s what they should and shouldn’t do” that is completely up to William’s. They will be saying our PU supply agreement ends if you take on Albon while still contracted to RB. Its Williams choice still.

    3. it’s funny that by ur own wording they can’t put Albon in AT because Honda are partners and therefore Tsunoda is imposed, but Toto is not allowed to publicly block the move of Albon into Williams when Merc supplies Williams with Engines and gearboxes as well next year. Double standards just to bash Toto on doing his best to protect the brand he represents. When Ocon moved to Renault, his contract with Merc was broken, Horner needs to break Albon’s contract and therefore obligations if he wants him to join Williams, Simple as this.

      1. Who said Honda is blocking a move?

      2. It all depends on how badly RedBull energy drinks owners want Albon to stay. I think it would make sense to formally release him, but at that point, I am asking, what RB is going to gain from all this effort to keep him in F1?

    4. @balue
      He owns shares in Williams and Mercedes F1 teams and also provides PU to 4 teams. He helped his friend Lawrence Stroll get his act together and quickly build a race winning car (the pink Mercedes). He also manages Bottas, Ocon, Russell and trying to get De Vries a F1 seat.

      The thing is it was reported that he was furious and salty about Ferrari when they’ve blocked his bid to the top F1 job in favour of Domenicali. All this power and the man is still asking for more…

      1. Just the nerve to want to run F1 while straight out of TPing and part-owning a team says it all. But I think he sold out at Williams when he joined Mercedes @tifoso1989

        1. @balue
          He sold his 15% stake in the Williams team when he joined Mercedes in 2013. However, he got 5% back because the last payment defaulted. I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t orchestrated by Wolff himself to keep a leg in Williams given his work history in the investment business first as an employee in a Polish Bank and later as an entrepreneur.

          https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/williams-explains-wolffs-continued-shareholding-in-f1-team-4981288/4981288/

  10. Usual sense of entitlement from RB and their fans.
    I suspect Albon will go to Williams, but with a cast iron contract to stop RB taking him back, or placing him elsewhere, on the whim of Marko.

  11. LOL. 100% he’d have to become a free agent as Williams doesn’t have any links, direct or indirect, to RB, not even the same PU supplier. No way they’d take him merely on loan, only if he was 100% under contract.
    Alpha Tauri is the only RB-owned/controlled team, something Horner seems to have forgotten.

  12. Some people seem upset by Mercedes’ position, I for one absolutely understand it. There is probably enormous benefits Red Bull can have from having a contracted driver on a Mercedes engine. Even race by race, having engine maps, projected stints, engine modes and whatever more is a huge advantage. And Red Bull has four seats, two of them with drivers not performing well.

  13. It’s funny about this whole story that it seems a given that the Williams seat is vacant even when Russell is not announced as Mercedes-driver yet.

  14. did anybody see at the end of the article Binotto’s response when questioned about the “Ferrari seat” at Alfa Romeo? he must thinks F1 fans are not very intelligent (to put it politely), Alfa Romeo and Ferrari are the same company…

    1. @nickthegreek I had the same thought. Talk about hypocrisy. And he probably said all that with a straight face.

  15. Who knows the intricate contractual details between Williams and their engine supplier? They may be getting a great deal on hardware and/or support for allowing Mercs young driver to drive and build experience ( Russell). Why should they allow a driver contracted to a rival in? And what is RB’s problem with releasing Albon? They screwed him enough already. Even the “Big Bad Toto” released Ocon.

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