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ANALYSIS: Why it’s win-win for Albon and Williams as they link up for 2026 and beyond

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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Alex Albon has become the latest driver to clarify his future in Formula 1 by signing a multi-year contract extension with Williams. The Thai driver already had a deal to stay with the British team for 2025 – so why has he moved so quickly to extend his stay? F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto explains…

Alex Albon was heading to, in his words, “kiss stingrays” with his girlfriend Lily Muni He while on Grand Cayman when the new contract dropped into his inbox.

The 28-year-old has been a driver in demand, following a stellar two years with Williams that has rebuilt his reputation after he was dropped by Red Bull.

READ MORE: Albon signs multi-year contract extension with Williams

He near single-handedly guided Williams to a shock seventh in the constructors’ championship last year, scoring all but one of their points with – in the words of his boss James Vowles – “championship-level” performances.

It was no surprise, then, that several teams courted him. Red Bull are understood to have had an option on him for 2026, for example.

However, Williams really wanted to keep hold of him. They had him tied up for 2025 but they wanted a longer-term commitment, one that would give them consistency into the new rules cycle that begins in 2026, and fend off rivals snatching their guy.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 05: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Williams FW46 Mercedes leads

Albon will fly the colours for Williams for the foreseeable

‘Williams love working with Albon – and Albon loves working with them’

Williams have seen first-hand over the last two-and-a-bit years just what Albon can bring to the team.

It’s not just about being a fast driver and delivering on track – it’s about being a team player and a leader to inspire the team. Albon has proved he can do that. The team love working with him. And he loves working with them.

WATCH: ‘I believe in this journey’ – Albon discusses multi-year contract extension with Williams Team Principal James Vowles

The engineers know that every time he gets in the car, he will go out and extract the potential and all the learnings they need to assess the package. That kind of consistency is invaluable when trying to understand a car and make it better.

Vowles knows the Williams rebuild is a long-term project. Returning this once-great team to the front is not the work of a few years but of multiple seasons. It requires an enhancement in every single area from the ground up.

Having Albon onboard for the long-term – believed to be until at least the end of 2027 – gives Vowles and the rest of the team a driver who can help drive them forward quickly. The stability is key, too, as they can fully invest in embedding him across all conversations and decisions.

Importantly, a sought-after driver signing for them is a huge vote of confidence in the project and should help boost their attractiveness as they look to attract other talent – from drivers to engineers, mechanics to operational personnel.

‘It’s a huge vote of confidence for the team’ – Albon discusses his multi-year contract extension with Williams Team Principal James Vowles

Albon believes in the Williams project

Why did Albon turn everyone else down? Ultimately, he believes in the project, and with the options available to him, he felt this was the right option.

When he spoke to the team on Tuesday evening at the factory – after a day in the simulator – he acknowledged the tricky season the team were having but how from everything he’s seen behind the scenes about the plans for the future, he’s convinced they are on the right path and there is so much more to come – which is why he has signed on the dotted line.

READ MORE: Williams talking to ‘four or five drivers’ as Vowles offers his take on Antonelli

With sweeping new power unit regulations coming into force in 2026 – which will involve a greater focus on electrical power and the use of 100% sustainable fuel – backing a project with a Mercedes power unit has its merits.

The Silver Arrows delivered the best package when the engine rules were revised for 2014 – and enjoyed the class-leading tech for several seasons before everyone else started to catch up.

German driver Nico Rosberg (L) and Bristish Lewis Hamilton (C) of Mercedes AMG Petronas and

Williams' ties with Mercedes helped them at the start of the 2014 engine regulation change

It also makes sense to stay somewhere where you feel comfortable, can express yourself and have the complete backing of everyone within the team.

Everyone loves to be loved – and Williams love Albon. They’ve never hidden that. And they’ve never been afraid to lead the chase. That is a huge confidence boost for a driver, and gives them one less thing to cloud their head about during a race weekend where distractions are unwelcome.

READ MORE: Our writers share their views on where they’d love to see Adrian Newey next after his Red Bull departure

There’s something to be said for staying in that environment. Just look at the way Lando Norris is flourishing at McLaren.

When talking to Albon after the news was announced, Vowles said: “You have a peak of your career – you’ll be in it for a while – but you’re coming into it.

“My responsibility is while you’re here, we have to give you the best equipment possible. That’s what I like about this multi-year deal, it’s not about the now anymore, it’s how do we put you on our shoulders, walk with pride, and give you every opportunity?”

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 03: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams and James Vowles, Team Principal

Vowles has made Albon feel wanted in the team

Albon genuinely believes in Vowles’ vision and he can see that the plan is working. And to hear your boss say they feel a “personal responsibility” to deliver a “championship-winning car” specifically for you in return for your long-term commitment is really quite something.

Yes, it might take some time but Albon realised that there’s a lot of evidence to suggest it’ll be worth the wait. And within the last week, he put pen to paper on the new contract, taking himself off the market for now and allowing him to fully focus on leading the charge to bring Williams back towards the front.

READ MORE: 'I just feel so much more healthy' – Sargeant explains how he has bounced back after rookie season took ‘big toll’

If both parties deliver over the next three-and-a-bit years, it will have been a shrewd move for both – and having put the hard work in, a further extension will be a no-brainer.

If only Albon delivers, he’ll only have enhanced his reputation – and he’ll have no shortage of admirers going forward, while Williams will have benefitted from Albon’s immense experience.

In other words, the deal is essentially a win-win scenario for Albon and Williams.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: 14th placed qualifier Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams wipes his

With no points on the board yet in 2024, Albon can now switch focus to helping Williams get off the mark

Attention turns to second seat

Vowles told me in Miami that Williams have “four or five” options when it comes to drivers for next year. That shows how far Williams have come in recent years.

Not so long ago, they were forced to wait until the end of the year to see what was left over, such hard times had they fallen on after years of underinvestment in the operation as Claire Williams valiantly battled to keep her father’s team alive in very challenging circumstances.

READ MORE: Who is Andrea Kimi Antonelli – and why was he such a hot topic in the Miami paddock?

Now, under new ownership and with fresh financial resource, they are a player in the market, announcing their plan for one driver for 2026 before the summer of 2024, and with a flurry of drivers and/or their managers getting in touch about potential openings.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 05: Logan Sargeant of United States and Williams jumps from his car after

Sargeant is trying to prove he deserves a third term with the team

Logan Sargeant will need to step it up significantly if he wants any chance of retaining his seat next season, but he’ll face stiff competition from a number of very experienced drivers who are interested, including the likes of Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon.

And, of course, there is the potential of signing Mercedes’ Italian protege Kimi Antonelli, who is this season making his debut in F2.

Vowles, then, can afford to take his time – and see which options become viable and which make the most sense going forward.

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