Williams CEO and team principal Jost Capito says that negotiations to hire Alex Albon to replace George Russell at the team in 2022 were not as difficult or complicated as they might have appeared to the outside.
Albon had long been part of the Red Bull junior driver development programme. He made his Formula 1 debut with the junior Toro Rosso squad in Australia at the start of 2019 and was subsequently promoted to the senior team over the summer break.
But after 24 races with Red Bull Albon was let go in favour of the more experienced Sergio Perez, although he remained with the team as test and reserve driver.
When Russell finally secured a full time role at Mercedes in 2022 alongside Lewis Hamilton, Albon was on Williams radar as a possible replacement driver alongside Nicholas Latifi.
The problem is that Williams utilise Mercedes power units while Red Bull run Honda engines, which could have meant Albon's move might have been blocked by either Mercedes boss Toto Wolff of Red Bull principal Christian Horner.
As well as the issue of technical trade secrets, Wolff was known to want Williams to give the spot to Formula E champion and Mercedes protege Nyck de Vries.
But despite this, Capita said the final talks about Albon's signing proved very straightforward with Red Bull releasing Albon from his previous contract while still retaining an ‘option’ to recall him next year.
“I discussed most of the issues with Christian, and Red Bull really wanted Alex to find an F1 seat,” Capito told formel1.de.
“That’s why the negotiations were not so difficult: they wanted to support him in his search for a seat, and we wanted Alex.
“Toto also has no problem with Alex leaving Red Bull to join us. It wasn’t as hard as it looked from the outside.”
Capito confirmed that the engine deal with Mercedes didn't give the German manufacturer any say or veto over the choice of drivers at Williams.
“We have no further obligations towards them,” Capito stated emphatically. “It has always been clear, also with Mercedes, that the decision about the drivers lies with us.
“We choose the drivers who are best for the team," he continued. "That's also in the interest of Mercedes, because they also want their customer teams to perform as well as possible. There has never been any discussion about this."
And he denied that the choice of a Red Bull driver over a Mercedes-backed talent hadn't resulted in any rift between the teams, or between Capito and the Mercedes boss.
“I’ve had a good relationship with Toto for many years, it hasn’t deteriorated in any way.”
The 63-year-old German has long been associated with the Volkswagen Group, taking his first post with the company in 1989 when he joined Porsche's racing division.
IN 2012 he was appointed motorsport director and masterminded the group's dominant run in the FIA World Rally Championship, before moving on to Formula 1 by joining Williams at the end of 2020.