Red Bull and Ferrari have both indicated it is wrong for Mercedes to influence whether Alex Albon can get a Williams Formula 1 drive for 2022.
Albon, Red Bull’s test and reserve driver, is in contention to get one of the vacant seats at either Williams or Alfa Romeo, along with Mercedes Formula E world champion Nyck de Vries and Alpine protege Guanyu Zhou.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner expressed his concern earlier in the Dutch Grand Prix weekend that title rival Mercedes will use its influence as Williams’s engine supplier to block Albon’s path.
Horner’s Mercedes counterpart Wolff said he would “never” block Albon’s path intentionally, but his preference is to help de Vries onto the grid and he admitted that the fact Albon is a Red Bull employee is an issue.
The newly-created Red Bull Powertrains division will gradually take over the running of Honda’s power units from next season and will develop the first in-house Red Bull F1 engine over the coming years.
Wolff said Red Bull would need to release Albon for Mercedes to be comfortable with him racing for Williams and having use of its power unit.
“It’s slightly unusual,” Horner said of Wolff’s comments.
“It’s a huge influence. But I’m sure Williams chooses the drivers they wish to drive in the car, and that they don’t have restrictions.”
Asked why Red Bull would have to split from Albon if that was the case, Horner said: “Maybe we don’t.
“We’ve had very productive discussions with Williams and with Alfa, and I expect the situation to hopefully be resolved in the next week or so.”
Albon’s preference is Williams and Horner said at the Belgian GP that Albon would be re-signed by Red Bull “unless he has an opportunity to go racing”.
That indicated Red Bull is willing to end its formal link with the driver should he be able to race elsewhere.
The alternative is to get a seat at Ferrari customer team Alfa Romeo, where Albon’s Red Bull affiliation is unlikely to be a stumbling block – and that would seem to apply to Mercedes-backed de Vries as well.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said: “I believe that whatever is happening between a team and a driver should be between the team and the driver and as manufacturers we should not influence.
“If a driver got an opportunity to drive he should simply have the opportunity to drive, wherever he’s coming from.
“If the team is happy to give him a seat, it’s happy to give him a seat. That’s it.”