Alex Albon has been one of Formula One’s standouts in 2023 and is likely to be a key cog in future driver markets as he looks to reestablish himself at a top team in future.

Albon, discarded by Red Bull at the end of 2020, has thrived since returning to the grid with Williams last year and has scored points in Bahrain, Canada and Great Britain for the backmarking team this season.

Last year, he agreed a multiyear extension with Williams until at least 2024.

His career revival has turned heads in the paddock. Sources have told ESPN at least two teams showed a serious interest last year in securing Albon’s services for this season but were unable to negotiate around his current deal.

“I think firstly it’s always nice to receive attention in that sense,” Albon told ESPN in a recent interview. “Not just in a media and outside sense, but it’s nice to feel it in a proper paddock sense, a team sense, where other teams are like that.”

Speaking on the topic of impressing other teams, Albon said: “I think purely as a driver it’s all about performance. You’ve got to do your job and give yourself the best platform.

“My focus is on Williams and I’m excited to see this progress and see where it’s going to take us in one, two years’ time and see from there where we are, and can we be fighting for podiums?

“Because that’s my goal, that’s where I want to be, wherever that is. I want to have a chance to win races before I retire, before I turn grey and old! I’m ready for that.”

Albon, 27, is not young by F1 standards — 10 of the grid’s 19 other drivers are younger than him — which is something he is very aware of as he considers the next step in his career.

“I feel like I’m near my peak,” he added. “If you talk about an age where you’re in the sweet spot…

“I’m not speaking in terms of Lewis [Hamilton] or Fernando [Alonso] or anyone … but I’m getting the experience to a point where I’m able to extract more from the car, not just in a driving sense but a technological sense. Also knowing about Formula One, knowing that language with the engineers.

“But in a couple of years I’ll be 30 years old, so you think about it.”

Although committed to the aim of reestablishing Williams as a front-running F1 team, Albon is wary of how long that might take.

“I am focused at Williams and that’s really it in terms of that noise, which is a separate noise to rumours … it’s actual noise! It’s not really for me to focus on. My manager can deal with all that.

“I’m just focusing on driving. My main focus is on driving the car. At the moment there’s not a need to talk about it externally and go around, purely because things are going well here and things are on the up, as we’ve seen.

“But there is an element where it will be a bit of time until we truly are a top team. I do believe Williams will get there. It’s just the timing of it. As much as I would say I am willing to wait, say, six, seven years I’ll be grey-haired and wrinkly-skinned by then!

“So you start thinking about it like that. Lewis and Fernando, they’re still going strong, but not everyone is like them.”

A good barometer of how well a driver is doing in F1 is the rumours that circulate on social media about them.

Albon has been the subject of plenty this year, including one outlandish suggestion he turned down the opportunity to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull earlier this year — something ESPN has been told by multiple sources is completely untrue.

Albon finds the rumours amusing and laughed when they were put to him, saying: “Yeah. Weird!

“The only thing that’s nice about rumours is it’s clearly showing things are going well. They’re nice rumours as well.

“I see some bad ones. It’s always my friends sending me this absolute garbage, like, ‘is this true!?'”

Clearly, it’s a time for drivers to be thinking about their next moves and Albon is no different. Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris are contracted at Ferrari and McLaren, respectively — Leclerc until the end of 2024 and Norris until the end of 2025 — while Sergio Perez’s contract at Red Bull is up in 2024.

There is a sense in the paddock that the driver market for the future could explode into life if one big-name driver moves teams.

“We’re in a period now and silly season has started earlier than normal,” Albon added. “The Daniel [Ricciardo] and Nyck [de Vries] thing has been the catalyst for it but even before Silverstone [it was starting].

“There’s one thing that is no secret and that’s 2026 is a big year as manufacturers are coming on board, teams are trying to get on board, there’s a huge push now. If you look at everyone’s driver contract, they’re all ending in the years leading to that.

“That’s just how it is right now. If you want to have a good driver, those talks start next season.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *