BARRETTO: Williams would love to have Albon for the long term – but he’s hot property in F1
Alex Albon is hot property in Formula 1 right now. The Thai driver pulled together a consistently strong campaign last season, gathering 27 of the Williams’ 28 points to guide them to P7 in the constructors’ standings.
The 27-year-old ended the season 13th overall but a superb joint-fourth in our Power Rankings – which is the system that scores drivers based on the quality of job they do with the machinery they have – finishing behind only champion Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris.
While his Williams boss James Vowles has revealed Albon is contracted up to the end of 2025, that hasn’t stopped Albon’s name from appearing on team’s wish lists for the future. Teams tend to look years ahead when it comes to plotting driver targets while others aren’t afraid to negotiate with another team if they really want to get a driver onboard.
Albon looks and feels like a driver who belongs in Formula 1, the 27-year-old delivering an impressive turnaround in fortunes from being dropped by Red Bull in 2020 to a rebirth at Williams.
Having spent the first year at the British team building his confidence and proving to himself – as much as the team – that he has what it takes to succeed in F1, he proceeded to prove he was team leader material by guiding Williams to their most successful championship position since 2017 in year two.
That brilliant rebuild of his career led to a swathe of admirers up and down the grid. Alpine and Haas are believed to have enquired about his services before he signed a new deal with Williams – and that interest has only expanded, with at least four outfits known to this writer marking him out as someone they’d like to run in the future.
So it’s unsurprising, then, that when Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris signed new long-term deals with Ferrari and McLaren respectively earlier this month, Albon emerged as a key driver in the driver market – that is set to be dramatic over the next couple of years.
What does he make of such attention? “It’s great,” he says when we chatted ahead of the launch and before the news Ferrari had signed Lewis Hamilton for 2025. “In some ways, it’s confidence fulfilling to know there is talk about you but you’re doing your own job.
“It is true, the silly season market has moved a bit, which is very early compared to normal. People have building blocks in place. All eyes are on the end of this year really. At that point, I’m excited to see where we are with Williams. I feel like we have everything in place to have a good car and now it’s about seeing we have done everything right.”
He adds: “When you take everything apart, all that matters is your performance. That’s all you really can focus on – and that’s all that is going to attract – or not attract – teams.
“The way I look at it, I love working at this team, I love seeing what we’re doing, I love seeing the progress. And it’s just about seeing how that progress continues. I want to see how big of a jump we make this year. There is a certain expectation I have with the car, to see how it does, but time will tell.
“Despite Lando and Charles signing up very early, there is still a lot of time to make a decision.”
Albon is being very pragmatic. It makes sense for him to want to see how Williams step up this year, not least because of the huge investment the owners are pumping in and the glide path the squad is on if they keep delivering big steps forward. But it also makes sense to consider what else is out there.
Albon knows he’s got more headroom in his performance – but that curve won’t keep climbing for ever, so his decision-making over the next couple of seasons will be the most significant on his career.
The current team
Williams boss James Vowles doesn’t mess about when it comes to talking about Albon’s future. He sees the Thai driver as a “very” crucial part of the Williams revival project he’s leaving and he’s made that known.
“I’ve already looked him in the eyes and said I want to work with you beyond where you’re contracted to,” he tells me. “This is a journey where I’m taking him through it. It’s long-term but I think he fits the bill perfectly.
“He will grow as the project grows at the same time. Alex for that matter – I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
And it’s why, despite Albon’s name popping up consistently in driver market chatter, Vowles isn’t annoyed.
“I’d be disappointed if people weren’t talking about him,” he says. “It means you haven’t necessarily got all the right choices. He’s an incredible driver, deserving of being in a car that is moving towards the front.
“That’s our responsibility. We need to deliver a product that allows him to perform at a level I know he can.”
It is believed Williams want to lock Albon down for the long-term, which is a growing trend in F1 – champion Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris all have multi-year arrangements.
By building the team around one of F1’s most impressive talents, it gives the squad an even better chance of accelerating their revival project. Albon’s personability and talent motivates the team and delivers on track. He’s win-win.
To keep him, they know they must show progress this year to prove last season’s step up wasn’t just a flash in the pan and demonstrate a clear path for the campaigns ahead.
The potential teams
For now, Albon is contracted to be a Williams driver for this season and next, but that hasn’t stopped a raft of teams putting his name on their shortlist for the future.
As is normal in Formula 1, there are always talks between drivers or their management teams and rivals. That might be something as informal as a short chat when passing in the paddock or something more formal over a coffee. Driver managers wouldn’t be doing their jobs if that wasn’t going on.
As Mercedes ponder who they could replace Hamilton with, it may be that they move to test the water on Albon’s availability. The Silver Arrows have contacted Williams before about a driver who the British team had under contract when they took Valtteri Bottas to replace Nico Rosberg.
Or three other teams on the grid, who are believed to be interested in Albon’s services, might come forward to explore possibilities.
What would Vowles do if interest in Albon came from elsewhere? “With the situation with Alex – would I stand in his way? I have the responsibility at Williams for much longer, that’s the most important thing to me,” he said when speaking at the Williams launch.
“It’s not the responsibility towards one individual – in this case Alex – it’s the 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 with the team’s long-term goal in mind not short.”
You get the impression, though, that Vowles's priority is to find a way to keep Albon for the long-term and make him the driving force for their revival.