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Formula 1

Williams's 2025 Albon revelation sets up a tense fight

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Williams team boss James Vowles’s compulsion to reveal Alex Albon is under contract until the end of 2025 is a telling clarification that sets up a tense fight to keep its star driver.

The relationship between Williams and Albon is good and there is a clear alignment for now. There is momentum about the team for the first time in many years, Albon excelled in 2023, and both parties are optimistic that another step can be made this season.

However, it is easy to see where a potential disconnect may emerge. Albon has already moved into a higher place in the driver pecking order than Williams, respectfully, sits in the team rankings.

He feels ready to fight for podiums and wins. “More than anything I want that team to be Williams,” he says, but he admits he does not expect that for Williams until 2026 or 2027.

Albon also doesn’t deny that there have been “questions and general chats” around interest from other teams. And when asked if in his mind his contract means he will be at Williams in 2025, or he has the option to look elsewhere, Albon was equivocal in response: “Let's see. Time will tell. But my focus is on 2024 [and] on making sure that we make progress for 2025.

“That's really where I'm at. I realistically want to be with the team. If the team is where I want them to be, it will be a long-term contract.

“We're going to go all the way or nothing. That's my idea with it.”

Faced with so many questions about his future at the team's season launch on Monday, Albon did an admirable job of dancing between the bullets.

But they’ll keep coming this year. Especially if Williams does not make convincing progress towards that goal for 2025 or 2026, and Albon attracts concrete interest from a rival team that could offer that.

He had been linked to Ferrari (not happening now Lewis Hamilton is going there), is a possible post-Hamilton candidate for Mercedes, and remains on good terms with his former employer Red Bull. There are also less nailed-on options that remain ambitious projects - works teams Aston Martin, Alpine and Audi.

When considering what kind of driver works for those entities in the short, medium and long term, it’s easy to imagine Albon in every scenario. These would all appeal to him to some degree. And there is real interest in him in return.

Theoretically that is irrelevant, now Vowles has made it emphatically clear Albon’s contract runs to the end of 2025.

But we all know F1 well enough to know that does not actually guarantee Williams retains Albon in 2025, whether that’s through an amicable resolution, a technicality like an escape clause, or the brute-force prospect of the contract being bought out. And forcing a driver to stay to honour a contract is not necessarily in a team’s best interest.

It has the potential to develop into an awkward situation if Albon wants out for 2025 and Williams makes it hard to leave. It really depends on the Williams trajectory, what firm alternatives materialise for Albon, and the possible choice he actually ends up facing.

But at the very least, there’s a fight coming - not necessarily between Albon and Williams, who could remain on the best of terms, but between Williams and an adversary (or adversaries) for Albon’s services longer-term. And Vowles has wanted to make the Williams position clear.

“Alex is signed in Williams until the end of 2025,” Vowles said. “That’s signed.

“It's not something I've been very public about, because I don't [usually] feel the need to.

“So, any reports that you're seeing, and there's one in particular - that individual is speculating. At best speculating.”

In practical terms, especially to those already in the know behind the scenes, this public revelation about Albon’s contract changes nothing. Especially as nobody knows how the next phase of the Williams trajectory plays out.

But Vowles wanted that information out there for a reason - to combat recent rumours, most likely a suggestion Albon has received a multi-year Red Bull offer, which is believed to be inaccurate.

It’s either a stern ‘hands off’ to rivals or a reminder that anyone who wants Albon is going to have to make a compelling offer.

Williams wants Albon beyond 2025, not just to hang onto him for another year, and the potential to either lose him or drive him away is not being overlooked. But Vowles is having to tread a delicate tightrope.

He wants to protect his team but will not want it to come across to Albon as a ‘whatever happens, remember, you’re here until the end of 2025 - so suck it up’. He also knows Williams is not automatically the most attractive option for Albon long-term. Vowles even went as far as saying Williams needs to prove it “deserves someone of the calibre of Alex”.

“Simple as that,” said Vowles. “I've said that from the beginning and I can still maintain that.

“He is an incredible driver that deserves his place towards the front. He did drives last year that are no different to some of the other champions I've worked with. He kept half the field behind in one race, we put him in a difficult position and he overcame that to score points.

“He and I have good chats about where we want to move forward. And where we want to move forward is we want to have our journey together in this team for a long time.

“We have to earn that right. It's not given, by any stretch of the imagination, nor should it really be for that matter.”

Albon and Williams were a perfect fit for each other in 2022 and even in 2023, as Albon had a platform to enhance the reputation he had rebuilt in his first year with the team following his 2021 sabbatical.

But Albon has started to outgrow Williams and this season will be critical in determining whether that's a short-term or long-term predicament, and what the best resolution is for both parties.

There was at least a hint from Vowles that if Albon has the chance to go somewhere else, and wants to go, and Williams identifies a good replacement, then Albon could be allowed to leave after this season. But that would only happen if, in Vowles's words, “I'm very clear in my mind that I've made decisions that are correct for the team's long-term goals, not the short-term”.

Albon is currently the best option for Williams on both counts. The reverse is not guaranteed and while the contractual situation gives Williams the upper hand in any fight to keep Albon, it is wise to acknowledge that this alone is not enough.

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