Williams' Team Principal and CEO Jost Capito has explained why the team took the decision to hire Alex Albon for 2022, a somewhat less expected signing than the other rumoured name, Nyck de Vries.
This is because De Vries is a Mercedes works driver, and became the newly crowned Formula E champion with Mercedes last month – a seemingly ideal signing for Williams given their close connection with Mercedes as an engine customer of the German marque.
Added to that, Albon is a product of Red Bull's Junior Programme, and his ongoing connections with Red Bull as their reserve driver meant that it was always likely Mercedes would look to prevent such a move happening. However, against what might have been expected, Albon has signed for Williams for 2022, and has even retained some semblance of a connection to Red Bull.
What convinced Williams about Albon that it was worth arguing with Mercedes and entering negotiations with Red Bull to secure his services, when the much more simple option would have been to sign De Vries?
Capito explains why Albon was the right choice
With Albon's immediate future now secured, Capito explained that the British-Thai racer's recent Formula 1 experience, as well as the likelihood of team harmony, was what helped swing the vote.
"It was a very difficult decision, because there are a couple of really good and promising drivers out there," Capito told select members of the media, including RacingNews365.com.
"For us, [we] finally got what is the combination of youth and Formula 1 experience, and also having a really good fit in the team. Alex and Nicholas [Latifi] have been teammates in Formula 2, so they have a very good relationship. For us, it's also at the stage where Williams is right now, we have to make sure that we have a good relationship and communication between both sides of the garage. As they worked together in the past, they know each other."
Capito said there was no desire to swap out both drivers at once, explaining that Latifi's upward momentum was worth keeping onboard ahead of what will be a tumultuous period in Formula 1 as the regulations change in 2022.
"This was also something that was taken in consideration, and with Nicholas, we wanted to have continuation as well. I'm not keen on changing two drivers at the same time, and not just that, because Nicholas is doing a really good job this year. He is still improving and he can step up next year."
De Vries would also have been a good option
Capito stated that De Vries was also an attractive prospect for Williams, but Albon's recent experience made him the better candidate.
Referring to his relationship with Toto Wolff from before Wolff entered Formula 1, Capito said there were discussions with the Austrian, who respects the decision made by Williams.
"Of course, Nyck is his driver in Formula E. I think he's happy if he can have him in Formula E for another season. I think he is not [feeling] too bad about this," he said.
"But, on the other hand, I think Nyck would deserve a seat in Formula 1, there is no doubt. Just for us, when we have to balance between youth and experience, then Alex has an advantage over Nyck. It doesn't mean that Nyck would have been worse in the seat next year, it doesn't mean that at all.
"Toto, at the end, he understands, and we understand that we are not a B-team, that we are not a satellite team, that we have to take the decisions that are right for us, and Toto fully respects that. And he also is fully aware of the capability that Alex has, and he's also of the opinion that Alex deserves to be in Formula 1 so he's supportive."
Williams not aiming to 'recycle' Albon
Having struggled for pace, form and confidence alongside Max Verstappen during his full year with Red Bull, Capito is confident that Williams will be able to get the best out of their new signing.
Capito explained that, in his eyes, there's no sense in judging a driver solely based on one season, especially as an inexperienced driver alongside Verstappen.
"I love what Alex has done in the past, it's not to recycle him," he said.
"I think he's done a great job, being the teammate of Max [Verstappen], [which] is something very difficult, as difficult as it is to be the teammate of Lewis Hamilton.
"I think it's very difficult to judge somebody just on one season, you have to see the whole career and what he has done, and there are always different circumstances that you can't just judge in single race results.
"So when I look at the whole career of Alex, what he has done, and how he worked and his character and also the comments of people having worked with him, we came to the conclusion that he's the right guy for us for next year."
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