Alex Albon will return to the Formula 1 grid in 2022 after securing a deal to race with Williams, with the British team also confirming Nicholas Latifi will stay on for a third campaign.
Albon has fulfilled reserve and test driver duties for Red Bull this season after losing his race seat to Sergio Perez. However, the two-time podium finisher has been pushing for a racing return outside the Red Bull family for several months, after it became clear a seat at the works team or AlphaTauri wasn’t possible.
It has been widely reported that Albon has been the frontrunner for a berth at Williams for several weeks, with the team keen on his experience and speed. Red Bull in tandem have pushed hard to make a deal happen, despite opposition from chief rival Mercedes, Williams’ engine supplier.
With Mercedes announcing they were promoting their protégé George Russell to the works team, the path was clear for Williams to confirm their plans with Albon taking his seat, after Red Bull released him from his current contract – though they said they still have “future options” on him.
A Red Bull spokesperson told the media “We have released Alex to become a Williams Racing driver in 2022 but retain a relationship with him that includes future options.”
Latifi, meanwhile, has stepped up his game this year, with Williams pleased with his growth and improving performance relative to out-going team mate George Russell and thus they were keen to continue with him.
“It is fantastic to be able to confirm our driver line-up for 2022 and I am delighted to be welcoming Alex to the team, along with confirming our continued relationship with Nicholas into next year,” said Williams boss Jost Capito. “We are extremely excited by our new line-up, with both drivers bringing a great blend of youth and experience that will not only be a great fit for the team but also help the team take the next step in our journey.
“Alex is one of the most exciting young talents in motorsport, yet comes with a large amount of F1 experience from his time at Red Bull. His multiple podium finishes highlight his speed as a driver, and we know he will immediately feel at home with the team at Grove.
“Nicholas meanwhile has consistently impressed us over the past three years with his hard work, diligence, and positive attitude. He has continued to develop throughout his time at Williams and has grown into an impressive F1 driver, as seen by his points scoring finishes this season.
“We are now looking forward to continuing to build on our positive momentum as a team and finishing this season as strongly as possible, before turning our attentions to 2022.”
Albon, who made his debut in 2019 with Toro Rosso and has amassed 38 starts, added: “I am really excited and looking forward to returning to a Formula 1 race seat in 2022. When you take a year out of F1 it’s never certain you will make a return so I’m extremely thankful to Red Bull and Williams for believing in me and helping me on my journey back to the grid.
“It’s also been great to see all the progress Williams have been making as a team this year and I look forward to helping them continue that journey in 2022. My focus now returns to my Test & Reserve Driver role at Red Bull and helping the team fight for this year’s world championship.”
Meanwhile Red Bull boss Christian Horner added: “We rate Alex very highly and with our line-up for 2022 fixed, our objective was to help find him a seat in another team where he could gain more F1 mileage and experience and we are delighted to have done that with Williams Racing.
“Alex has been a hugely valuable asset in his role as our test and reserve driver this year, helping bring performance from the simulator to the car each weekend, but for his career it was important not to spend another season out of an F1 race seat. With his place on the grid next year secured, we are delighted to see him realise this opportunity and we will be following his progress closely.”
Latifi said: “I’m excited to be continuing with Williams for another year; partly because of F1’s new technical regulations, but also because the team is moving in a more competitive direction with new owners, management and people on the technical side.
“I’ve felt at home here since the day I arrived, and I think I’m in the right place to continue with my positive trajectory. The aim is to continue making little improvements so we can all take advantage of the opportunity we have next year.
“I’m super excited to work with next year’s car and it’s like a fresh start for everybody. I feel privileged to be part of that change.”