Red Bull Formula 1 team boss Christian Horner says he “really hopes” Mercedes doesn’t block Alex Albon from making a return with Williams in 2022.
Albon lost his Red Bull seat to Sergio Perez at the end of last year, taking up a test and reserve role with the team for 2021 alongside a DTM campaign.
But the 25-year-old’s main focus is returning to a race seat in F1, and Horner confirmed on the Friday of the Dutch Grand Prix that both Williams and Alfa Romeo have expressed an interest in signing Albon for next year.
Those two teams are Albon’s only option with no possibility at either of the two Red Bull-owned teams.
George Russell is expected to partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, leaving behind a vacant Williams seat, while Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement announcement and uncertainty over Antonio Giovinazzi’s future potentially leaves two seats at Alfa Romeo.
Horner says he hopes Mercedes doesn’t intervene and blocks its customer Williams from running the Red Bull affiliated Albon.
“Yeah, well, we’re working hard to get him a seat,” Horner told SkySportsF1. “I really hope that Mercedes don’t block his opportunity at Williams.
“That would be a great shame if a driver were to pay the penalty for that. But yeah, hopefully, that won’t come to play, but there are opportunities in a couple of teams and our priority is to see him racing next year.
“If we can’t do that then he’ll still be with us in a test and reserve role because we rate him extremely highly.”
Horner says Williams is Albon’s preference out of the two teams but claims Mercedes has called Albon on around four occasions to dissuade him.
“I think his preference would be Williams but obviously there are a few hurdles,” Horner added.
“He’s had about four phone calls telling him not to go there from the team next door [apparently referring to Mercedes].”
When asked what he told Albon to respond with, Horner simply said – “I told him to ignore them.”
Newly crowned Formula E world champion Nyck de Vries is present at his home Dutch GP in his role as Mercedes’ reserve driver.
Along with Albon, Valtteri Bottas, Giovinazzi and current Formula 2 championship leader and Alpine junior Guanyu Zhou, de Vries is one of the leading contenders for the Williams and Alfa Romeo seats.
More dominoes in the F1 driver market are expected to fall in the week leading up to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.