Alex Albon, the Thai-Anglo driver, will return to Formula 1 racing in 2022 with the Williams team.
The 25-year old, who lives in London, but races under the Thai flag, returns after a year’s hiatus. He is currently the reserve and test driver for Red Bull, and combines that with sports car racing at the weekend.
He is the last piece in the drivers’ jigsaw for 2022, after a merry-go-round which has moved at such a pace that it has resembled roulette wheels in Irish casinos like these.
which was parked into action when Kimi Raikkonen, the oldest on the grid at aged 41, and who has taken part in more F1 races than any other man in history, announced he is to retire at the end of the season.
His lace at Alfa Romeo will be taken by fellow Finn, Valtteri Bottas. He ahs been the team-mate of Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for five years, winning nine races in that time, but largely serving as the World Champion’s “wing man”, although Bottas has always disliked that epithet, insisting he is a challenger in his own right.
However, due to a combination of bad luck and driver errors, most noticeably when he spun out on the first corner in Budapest and took Max Verstappen and several other drivers, and picked up a five place grid penalty into the bargain, this has been his least successful season with the German team, and has to make way for the coming man, George Russell.
The 23-year old Englishman, who is managed by Toto Wolff, the Mercedes’ team principal, hs been tipped as a future World Champion, and his elevation into the team alongside Hamilton for the next year is the clearest sign yet that they are preparing for life after the seven-time world champion, who is now 36 years old and ahs just agreed a new two year deal.
Russell has spent the last three seasons driving for Williams and, despite the car being largely uncompetitive, he has acquired the nickname “Mr Saturday” for his ability to qualify the car in the grid higher than its s underlying performance would merit.
And that, in turn, opens up a place at Williams which Albon has not taken.
For Albon it is a chance at redemption in the sport.
Part of the Red Bull young driving programme, he made his F1 debut with their junior team, Toro Rosso, before he was bumped up to the main team, replacing Pierre Gasly midway through the 2019 season.
He did well enough to keep his seat for the next season but then he began to struggle, beginning with qualifying where he was, on average, nearly half a second slower than team-mate Verstappen. He also lacked race craft and seemed at times overawed by his surroundings and, despite being given every chance to prove himself, Red Bull decided to drop him for Sergio Peréz for this season.
Now though, he is back in the sport which next year promises to be completely different, thanks to new regulations that are being introduced to make for better racing. Albion will be hoping that, this time, he can take the chance given to him.