Williams CEO Jost Capito discloses that early on that they were aware there was a good possibility of George Russell being considered for the Mercedes seat:
“At an early stage we looked at, if it would happen, who would be the right driver to replace George,” he explained. “And there were quite a number of options. It’s difficult to name a number [of drivers] because the options came and went.
“So at the end there were quite a good number of options where you can choose between long experience, experience and youth or just youth and no experience in Formula 1. And it’s a difficult decision because there are quite a couple of really good drivers around who would all deserve a seat in Formula 1.”
Capito has kept an eye on Albon’s career in F1 over these past few years and knows that you can’t just judge a driver on one season alone. After looking at his time in the F1 series so far, the Williams team principal believes Albon has done a “great job”.
“He’s done a great job,” said Capito. “Being the team mate of Max is something something very difficult, as much as difficult to be the team mate of Hamilton. And you see it in McLaren how difficult it is for Danny [Ricciardo] to come into a new car as well.
“So I think it’s very difficult to judge somebody just on one season. You have to see the whole career and what he has done. And there are always different circumstances. You can’t just judge in a single race results.
“So when I look at the whole career of Alex, what he has done and how he works and his character and also the comments of people having worked with him, we came to the conclusion that he is that he’s the right guy for us for next year.”
Capito also contends that Albon’s Thai-Brittish nationality was not the selling point for the Williams team and that it ultimately comes down to choosing the best person for the seat regardless of what country they are associated with.
“I think we are very international, we are very open, and we don’t choose anybody – if it’s in the factory or if it is in whatever position – based on the nationality or race or whatever. We choose the best person and we don’t pay any attention to the nationality.”
Capito states that the team knew all year that they could lose Russell to Mercedes. It was quite evident that Mercedes was interested in Russell especially after he did such a great job stepping in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir GP last season when Hamilton contracted COVID. Despite, the writing on the wall that Russell would not truly be happy at Williams after his short time filling in for Hamilton at Mercedes, Capito divulges that the team remains highly supportive of Russell joining the championship-winning team Mercedes for the 2022 F1 season.
“The discussion about Mercedes and George was an ongoing process,” he said. “Of course we knew all year that we could lose him to Mercedes because that contract ran out and he’s done a brilliant job last year when he’s been in the Mercedes. So it was obvious that they would consider taking George and they had the right to do so.
“When it got more clear, we were very supportive of that as well. I’m very much in favour of supporting drivers even if it’s not the best for the team. You don’t benefit as a team if you have a driver who is not happy. If George could be in a Mercedes but had to stay at Williams, he wouldn’t be a happy driver and wouldn’t deliver what he can deliver.
“So this is why we support him with his talent and with his experience to be in the car that is the championship-winning car and the championship-winning team of the last how-many years.”