The British team announce Nicholas Latifi and Albon as the driver pairing for 2022.
Williams have announced that former Red Bull driver Alex Albon will be replacing the departing George Russell for the 2022 season. They have also announced that Albon will be partnered by Nicholas Latifi, who will be staying on for a third season with the team.
Albon, who lost his seat to Sergio Pérez at the end of 2020, has been the reserve and test driver for Red Bull this season. He has been instrumental in helping the team gather valuable data, spending hours and hours in the simulator and has also provided Pérez with valuable information, for the Mexican to settle in with the Red Bull team.
After Red Bull announced that Sergio Pérez will partner Max Verstappen for another season last month and that Red Bull’s sister team, AlphaTauri, will be sticking with their line-up for the upcoming season too, it was clear that Albon would not have a Red Bull-backed seat.
The Thai driver, who was one of the front-runners for the Williams seat, has been chosen for not only his talent and speed but also his double-season experience. Albon’s previous Formula One campaigns give him the edge over any other young talent, and given that he has already sat in the Red Bull car for more than one season has convinced the Williams hierarchy to sign Albon.
Albon, who made his debut in 2019 with Toro Rosso, was promoted to the Red Bull seat beside Max Verstappen midway through the season in a swap with Pierre Gasly. Although he showed glimpses of his talent, the pressure of being Max Verstappen’s teammate got to Albon and a poor 2020 season saw the Thai driver lose his seat to Sergio Pérez.
Speaking about Albon joining the team and why the team chose to retain Latifi for another season, Williams boss Jost Capito said:
“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.
“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 the team take the next step in our journey.
“Alex is one of the most exciting young talents in motorsport, yet comes with a large amount of F1 experience from his time at Red Bull. His multiple podium finishes highlight his speed as a driver, and we know he will immediately feel at home with the team at Grove. We want to win races and championships in the long term, but it will take time to develop this.
“In choosing our drivers, we looked at what are the right attributes required on the engineering, developing and driver side. We want to move forward, we don’t want to move backwards. With that in mind, a driver who is still at the beginning of his career and has quite a lot of experience already was appealing. Alex has been in one of the top teams, has driven a race-winning car, has experience of being successful and being on the podium – and is eager to do that again. He will also fit well in the team and already has with the relationship with Nicky, as they were team mates in F2. All this together was important for us. If [we] take these attributes and put them through a checklist, Alex is the guy who is the one that fits the most.”
Capito also spoke about the team’s decision to retain Latifi:
“Nicholas meanwhile has consistently impressed us over the past three years with his hard work, diligence, and positive attitude. He has continued to develop throughout his time at Williams and has grown into an impressive F1 driver, as seen by his points scoring finishes this season. We are now looking forward to continuing to build on our positive momentum as a team and finishing this season as strongly as possible, before turning our attentions to 2022.”
The Williams team boss also spoke about the importance of building a good relationship between the two drivers:
“[A good relationship] is very important. It is also important you have a certain competition on both sides of the garage. The first guy you want to beat is your teammate as it’s the only one you can directly compare. I’m a big fan of keeping this competition up as long as they work with their engineers and it is improving the team overall.
“When I met Alex and learned about his character, I got the feeling this will be the case. Both he and Nicholas are very competitive. Their first priority is improving the team, as it was with George and Nicky. I believe if that is the intention, and this is the mindset of the drivers, they get a better result.”
Albon, a two-time podium sitter, spoke about the excitement of being back on the grid and his plans ahead:
“I am really excited and looking forward to returning to a Formula 1 race seat in 2022. 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.
“My focus now returns to my Test & Reserve Driver role at Red Bull and helping the team fight for this year’s world championship.”
Partnering Albon will be Nicholas Latifi, who in his second season with Williams is having a stellar campaign and has scored his first points for the team. He has seemingly impressed his team enough for them to believe in the Canadian for another season.
Speaking about his future, Latifi said:
“I’m excited to be continuing with Williams for another year; partly because of F1’s new technical regulations, but also because the team is moving in a more competitive direction with new owners, management and people on the technical side. I’ve felt at home here since the day I arrived, and I think I’m in the right place to continue with my positive trajectory. The aim is to continue making little improvements so we can all take advantage of the opportunity we have next year.
“I’m super excited to work with next year’s car and it’s like a fresh start for everybody. I feel privileged to be part of that change.”
With Williams’ seats confirmed, there is only the second Alfa Romeo seat which is not confirmed yet as it is understood that Haas will most likely continue with their current pairing.
As racing heads to the Temple of Speed, the driver market has certainly sped up with its activities over the last few days.