After a single season away from the sport, former Red Bull and AlphaTauri driver Alex Albon will return to F1 in 2022 with Williams alongside Nicholas Latifi.
The British-born Thai driver will replace Mercedes-bound George Russell, whose departure to the championship-winning team was confirmed yesterday (7th September). Albon, who graduated from the junior team to the full Red Bull squad after barely half a season of F1 racing, was dropped from the team at the end of 2020 after a year-and-a-half and replaced by Sergio Perez.
For 2021 Albon has been racing in the revised DTM series for AlphaTauri, which switched from Class One touring car regulations to GT3 for this season. He currently lies sixth in the championship in his first season of GT racing, with a win at the Nürburgring and a pair of podiums to his name.
While away from the top level of motorsport, Albon was retained as Red Bull’s reserve driver and carried out simulator and testing work for the team, including attempts to recreate Lewis Hamilton’s Silverstone racing line as Red Bull attempted to appeal the result of the British Grand Prix.
Albon will be partnered in the Williams team by Nicholas Latifi, who has raced for Williams for two seasons, with gradually increasing success. A generally safe, if unspectacular, pair of hands, Latifi has helped the team grab two points finishes in the last three races, the first at Hungary being Williams’ first since 2019.
Latifi, who finished as runner-up to the other rumoured contender for the Williams seat Nyck De Vries in F2 in 2019, had yet to be confirmed in the second Williams seat for 2022, but with strong backing was expected to be retained.
“I am really excited and looking forward to returning to a Formula 1 race seat in 2022,” Albon said.
“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.”
“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 CEO 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 us take the next step in our journey.”
The announcement is the latest in a sudden merry-go-round for the F1 drivers’ market, which started with Kimi Räikkonen’s retirement announcement before the Dutch Grand Prix. After that Valtteri Bottas confirmed that he would join Alfa Romeo, allowing Russell to take his spot at Mercedes and Albon the Williams drive.
Neither Aston Martin or Haas have confirmed their driver line-ups for 2022, but both are strongly expected to retain their current arrangements, leaving only the second Alfa Romeo seat, currently held by Anthonio Giovinazzi, up for grabs.