Red Bull and Mercedes discuss potential Alex Albon F1 2022 move with Williams his preference
Christian Horner says Alex Albon wants Williams move for 2022 - but tells Sky F1 he's concerned Mercedes would "block" it; Toto Wolff denies, while also talking up Mercedes' reserve and Formula E champion Nyck de Vries for seat
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 04/09/21 7:32am
Christian Horner says Red Bull are "working hard" to get Alex Albon back on the Formula 1 grid next season and admits two teams are interested in his current reserve driver, who would prefer a move to Williams.
In an interview with Sky Sports F1, Red Bull boss Horner also accused rivals Mercedes of trying to block an Albon deal - although the Silver Arrows' Toto Wolff insisted he would "never" do so as Albon "deserves a seat".
Albon has been off the grid this season following a year and a half as Max Verstappen's team-mate at Red Bull, who replaced him with Sergio Perez.
But Red Bull are confident that Albon - now their test and reserve driver - can return as part of the expected sweeping driver changes for 2022.
"We're working hard to get him a seat," said Horner of Albon, who scored two podiums in 26 races with Red Bull. "There's opportunities with a couple of teams and our priority is to see him racing next year.
"He's got a couple of opportunities to do that outside of Red Bull and hopefully there'll get that chance.
"Alfa [Romeo] and Williams are those who are showing a lot of interest. I think his preference would be Williams."
Both Alfa Romeo and Williams have yet to confirm any of their drivers for 2022.
Alfa are expected to sign Valtteri Bottas as Kimi Raikkonen's replacement post-retirement - in the deal that should see George Russell head from Williams to Mercedes. Antonio Giovinazzi's future with Alfa, and Nicholas Latifi's with Williams, are less certain.
Horner says Red Bull are looking at "external teams" for Albon rather than a return to the sister team - AlphaTauri - and that he thinks "he's good enough that we don't need to be taking a funding package with him".
But he also voiced his concern about "unnecessary obstacles" and namely Mercedes trying to block a move to Williams, who they supply with engines.
"I really hope Mercedes don't block his opportunity at Williams because of his linkage to Red Bull," said Horner. "That would be a great shame if a driver has to pay the penalty for that."
The team boss then added: "He's had about four phone calls telling him not to go there from the team next door. I told him to ignore them."
Mercedes' denial and hopes for De Vries as Formula E champion eyes F1 seat
Mercedes, however, deny they would attempt to stop Albon's move - even though they are keen to place their own reserve driver Nyck de Vries in an F1 seat.
De Vries, Mercedes' new Formula E champion and 2019 F2 title-winner, has been linked with the same seats as Albon for 2022.
"I guess at the moment it all revolves around Alex Albon, who as Christian said deserves a seat," said Mercedes boss Wolff. "He's a really good kid and he's probably the main protagonist in the [musical] chairs."
He added to F1: "I would never block someone like Alex Albon - he's a fantastic guy, personality is great. I was personally sad to see him going [in 2020], and if he has a chance in a Formula 1 car I think that's the right thing to do.
"But equally, maybe Nyck has. So we'll have to look at the open spaces at Alfa and at Williams and try to find a solution."
Wolff also admitted he was in "two minds" about De Vries, a former McLaren junior driver, joining the F1 grid due to his stellar work with the Formula E team.
"He's an extremely important member of that team," he said. "I admired his decision back in the day after winning the F2 title to say I want to be part of a works team and that's why I'm joining Formula E rather than running behind a dream in Formula 1.
"Now the time has come that people recognise his talent and his ability and therefore there are talks taking place."
De Vries has been linked heavily with the Ferrari-backed Alfa, but Wolff continued: "Most important is that he stays in the family.
"I don't want to really lose him at that stage for another Formula E championship, but I wouldn't block him from Formula 1."