Amidst speculation linking him with Red Bull and Mercedes, Williams insists that Alex Albon remains its driver until the end of 2025.
Since last Thursday’s bombshell announcement that Lewis Hamilton is leaving the Silver Arrows at the end of this season for Ferrari, there has been much speculation over who might partner George Russell at Brackley next season.
Top of the list thus far has ben Albon, who has continued to impress since returning to the sport with Williams in 2022.
However, the Anglo-Thai driver has also been seen as a replacement for Sergio Perez at Red Bull should the Mexican not up his game this year.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Grove outfit’s 2024 livery however, team boss James Vowles was keen to make clear that Albon is not available.
“Alex is signed in Williams until the end of 2025,” he said. “It’s not something I’ve been very public about because I don’t feel the need to,” he added, “so any reports that you’re seeing, and there’s one in particular, they’re individually speculating, at best.”
Of course, Albon already has experience of Red Bull having been promoted from Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly at Red Bull halfway through the 2019 season.
Retained by the Austrian team for 2020, though he gave a number of impressive performances he was outshone by Max Verstappen and dropped at season end in favour of Perez, the Thai demoted to the role of test and reserve driver.
For 2022 he was brought back to the grid by Williams to replace Russell, and over the next two seasons demonstrated not only why he was considered worthy of the Red Bull seat in the first place, but that he is capable of battling for podiums… hence the ongoing speculation linking him with the big guns.
Other than his obvious talent, Vowles believes that it is the atmosphere at Grove which has helped Albon develop.
“It is our job at Williams to create an environment that deserves someone of the calibre of Alex. Simple as that,” said Vowles. “I’ve said that from the beginning, and I can still maintain that he is an incredible driver that deserves his place towards the front.
“He did drives last year that I’ve already commented on. They’re no different than some of the other champions I’ve worked with,” he added.
“He and I have good chats about where we want to move forward, and where we want to move forward is we want to have our journey together in this team for a long time. We have to earn that right.
“It’s not a given by any stretch of the imagination, nor should it really be, for that matter. We have to demonstrate to the world that we’re not the Williams of old, and we’re not moving backwards. We’re moving forward continuously.”
However, last week’s events proved yet again that contracts are barely worth the paper they are printed on.
“Would I stand in his way? I have the responsibility of Williams on my shoulder,” said Vowles. “It’s not the responsibility towards one individual, in this case Alex, it’s a responsibility towards the team.
“So, should any decision go that way, it’s because I’m very clear in my mind that I’ve made decisions that are correct for the team’s long-term goals, not short.”
Of course, in much the same way that a number of teams might be pondering selling should Andretti opt to take that option, Albon will also be seen as a potential pay day, especially if the likes of Mercedes or Red Bull come calling.
After all, isn’t Williams owned by an investment company.