The departure of Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull to Renault, at the end of 2018, thrust the team’s driver programme into disarray as they had no plug-and-play option to replace the Australian as teammate to the precocious and constantly improving Max Verstappen – the team’s Chosen One.
First, they tried Pierre Gasly who messed up his far too brief tenure – 12 races – in the senior team, then they put rookie Albon into the hot seat. But, he too – despite being given far more time than the Frenchman he replaced – was also destroyed by Max.
This made Red Bull driver boss Helmut Marko realise that they had no one in their young driver programme to partner their ace and for some unknown reason felt Gasly, who improved massively since his demotion, was not given the nod
Hence they went shopping outside the bullpen to take on the services of veteran Sergio Perez, and he has proven to be the best they have had to partner Verstappen.
Albon was eventually put to pasture at DTM for 2021 before Red Bull and Williams concluded a deal to return the lanky 26-year-old to the grid. He, of course, seized the opportunity to impress mightily this season, triggering a multi-year contract extension and inadvertently putting a final (?) nail in the F1 coffin of his teammate Nicolas Latifi.
Williams provided Albon with a second shot at F1, an opportunity he is maximising
Of the deal with Red Bull, present and past, Albon revealed to the Mirror recently: “That’s pretty much it now, I’m a total Williams driver.
“I had a link with Red Bull through this year and I still have a great relationship with Red Bull, like Williams they gave me a chance in F1 and I really enjoy the people there, they’ve always been really supportive to me but now it’s more of a focus with Williams.”
Albon’s journey to F1 was thanks to Red Bull investing in his talent through his junior career – he is considered one of the best karters of his generation – earning him his debut at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix with Toro Rosso. Thus no surprise he will not burn that bridge and has deep admiration for the organisation he is departing.
In the 38 races he contested for Toro Rosso and Red Bull, he scored two podiums finishing eighth in 2018 and seventh the following season, not enough to keep him in either Toro Rosso which became AlphaTauri or Red Bull.
As a teammate to Verstappen for a season and a half, Albon knows the phenomenon the Dutchman and has deep admiration for what Dietrich Mateschitz’s energy drinks organisation have achieved over the past couple of seasons.
Alex: Max, Red Bull, they’ve really hit their stride in the last couple of years
“They’ve always been good at regulation changes historically,” continued Albon. “And even the stuff they did with Honda and going into the new era with their Powertrains, it’s impressive. They’re really creating their own team.
“For sure, I don’t think it’s going to be a runaway – we know what Mercedes can do and what Ferrari have got, they still have a very strong car – but Red Bull have the upper hand at the moment.”
Albon has scored four points this season, for Williams, filling the formidable shoes of George Russell – who he replaced when the Englishman went to Mercedes, clearly enough to impress his team immensely in the first 14 races of his tenure with them.
Jost Capito, CEO and Team Principal said when extending Albon’s ideal with the Grove outfit: “Alex is a tremendous driver and valued member of Williams Racing, so we’re thrilled to be able to confirm we will be working with him on a long-term basis.
“Alex brings a great blend of skill and insightful learnings that will help bring the team greater success in the future. He’s a fierce competitor, has proved a popular and loyal team member and we are delighted that he will provide a stable base for us to continue to develop in this new F1 car era,” added Capito.