Alex Albon’s road to F1 has definitely been a hard one. Being an on and off Red Bull driver since 2008 he definitely knows how much pressure it brings, not only being dropped once by the team but twice, first time earlier in his career and second time last year. He first got into Red Bull Racing after the team dropped Pierre Gasly for “underperforming” and sent him back to AlphaTauri, but after a season in the senior team Albon got dropped as well, but without the possibility to go back to AT, as the seats were taken by Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.
Yet, Red Bull kept Albon around and despite his sabbatical from F1 (during which he drove in DTM), he will be back next season to drive for Williams. Albon never dropped his dream of coming back on the grid. When it comes to his new adventure, Alex says the help of Helmut Marko and Christian Horner were crucial in order for him to get the spot at Williams. They first spoke not only with Jost Capito, but also Fred Vasseur about vacancies in Alfa Romeo. But, after the free spot made by the retirement of Raikkonen was taken by Bottas, Williams was the only possibility. Alex recalls that this time was not the easiest, as there was a lot of waiting around. As he said in an interview with f1.com Lawrence Barretto: “There were sleepless nights, early wake ups. It’s one of those things coming into this year, even a month ago, didn’t sound like it was going in the right way but things worked out very quickly.
“Mostly it was just about keeping your head down. People’s opinions, things like that, you can’t control. You can control what you’re doing and that for me was being involved as much as I can with the team, doing the best job that I could do off track.
"It’s hard to prove yourself when you’re not driving the car, but at least on that side, cover all your bases. Once Valtteri [Bottas] and George [Russell] were moving around, it started to spice up the market a bit – and there was an opportunity.”
After months of waiting and talks back and forth, Albon finally got the call he was waiting for - two days before everything was announced. That, according to him, was a lot of weight taken down from his shoulders. As he said: “It’s been tough. When you’ve been in F1, and you’re at the race tracks watching it, not driving but being there, it’s tricky to sit there and relax. I got better at it during the year. At the first race, it was torture. But I got into the rhythm of it. If anything it increased my desire to be back on the grid, not just for friends and family but also the fans and everyone who has supported me – it motivated me and kept me going to get the seat.”
When talking about the Red Bull’s notoriety of dropping drivers and not always treating them accordingly, Albon said that the team was very helpful in order for him to get that seat. Well, that and George Russell going to Mercedes F1, obviously. As he said himself: “They get a bad rep for a lot of stuff. But at the end of the day, they’ve been extremely helpful. They’ve helped me talk with Williams and get all this stuff sorted out. It’s nice to feel that trust and belief in me. I owe a lot to them and continue to do so. I’ve been with Red Bull since 2008 so it’s been a while.”
When speaking about Russell, whom is a friend of Albon, not only in the racing setting but in more personal terms: “I don’t think he did any Powerpoint presentations for me, on my behalf, but I know from the people at Williams, from the board and everyone, that he was pushing quite hard to get me that seat. So I owe him a few beers, that’s for sure. But also, just him moving out of that seat helped. I owe him one!”
“People saw that during lockdown on the streaming side, but we’ve been racing for while together. “We have a good relationship, especially George. He practically lived at my house in 2016, so we get on really well.
"Hopefully we can do more of that stuff. I know everyone is busy now, and even though everything is running back to normal, hope we can still do that stuff, because I enjoyed it and I’m sure they do as well.”
Lastly, Albon spoke about his hopes and plans for his new adventure with Williams. He hopes to pick up from the job done by Russell at the team and to continue growing forward, but he is aware there are certain expectations. As he said: “With Williams, they do think long term, and the investment that has come in, they are on the up so it’s a great time to be a part of that – and hopefully carry them forwards.”
How will Albon perform at Williams? Do you think it was a good call by the team, or was there somebody else more suitable for this seat?