The Williams Formula 1 team has renewed Alex Albon’s contract on a multi-year deal starting from 2023.
Albon joined Williams for 2022 while still part of the Red Bull family as the Mercedes-powered team gave him a chance to return to the F1 grid.
He had spent 2021 on the sidelines as Red Bull’s test and reserve driver, having lost his Red Bull Racing seat at the end of the 2020 season.
Albon has thrived at Williams and quickly started to rebuild his reputation in F1.
He has two points finishes this season despite Williams’s lack of competitiveness and has comprehensively outperformed established team-mate Nicholas Latifi.
Team principal Jost Capito described Albon as “a tremendous driver and valued member of Williams” that the squad was “thrilled” to secure for the longer term.
“Alex brings a great blend of skill and insightful learnings that will help bring the team greater success in the future,” Capito added.
“He’s a fierce competitor, has proved a popular and loyal team member and we are delighted that he will provide a stable base for us to continue to develop in this new F1 car era.”
There were suggestions that Albon could look elsewhere for the 2023 season but with no seat available at either Red Bull-owned team, Williams was thought to have first refusal on his services.
And the team has now confirmed it has arranged a longer-term stay for Albon.
This quickly closes the door on the possibility of Albon joining Alpine, where he had briefly been linked as a possible back-up option should Alpine lose its expected legal wrangle with reserve driver Oscar Piastri.
Albon made a comical reference to the Piastri situation in his social media post about the new Williams deal, deploying an adjusted version of the phrasing Piastri had used when vehemently rejecting Alpine’s assertion of a 2023 deal last night – and immediately earned an approving reply from Piastri himself:
Congrats mate 👏 pic.twitter.com/Y1uJ1IXdQN
— Oscar Piastri (@OscarPiastri) August 3, 2022
The new Albon deal is a decisive move that prevents Williams suffering collateral damage in an explosive driver market situation triggered by Fernando Alonso’s shock move to Aston Martin.
Williams was the likely destination for Piastri, on a loan deal, all the while Alpine expected Alonso to sign a new contract.
Now Alpine needs Piastri’s services and McLaren is thought to be chasing the reigning
Formula 2 champion as well, ending any chance Williams had of landing the highly-rated Australian.
Had Albon been tempted away then Williams would have lost both members of its first-choice 2022 pairing.
Now it can take its time deciding whether to partner Albon with current driver Latifi or wait to see if its junior driver Logan Sargeant, currently in a race-winning rookie Formula 2 season, is a more appealing option.
It could also turn to an outside recruit – like Mercedes’ Formula E champion Nyck de Vries, who it fielded in a practice session earlier this year.