Alexander Albon will return to Formula 1 next year after being announced as a Williams driver alongside Nicholas Latifi for the 2022 season.
Albon made a remarkable graduation to F1 in 2019 with Toro Rosso that saw him re-join the Red Bull fold that had initially dropped him at the start of his single-seater career.
A series of strong performances led to Red Bull to take a punt and promote him to the senior team in place a struggling Pierre Gasly at the midway point in the season.
Eight points finishes in nine races earned him a full-time Red Bull drive for 2020, but despite two podium finishes Albon found himself without a seat after Red Bull’s decision to sign Sergio Perez.
The Thai driver has spent this year on the sidelines balancing a test and reserve driver role for Red Bull alongside a campaign in DTM, where he sits sixth in the drivers’ standings with one victory.
Following the news George Russell would be joining Mercedes for next year, Williams eyed Albon as a potential replacement, but his ties to Red Bull threatened to prevent the deal from being agreed.
But Red Bull confirmed it has released Albon to become a Williams driver for 2022, and will retain an option to re-sign him in the future.
“I am really excited and looking forward to returning to a Formula One 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. My focus now returns to my Test & Reserve Driver role at Red Bull and helping the team fight for this year’s world championship.”
Williams also confirmed Latifi would remain with the team for a third successive year, with the Canadian showing improved form in his second season in F1, claiming his first points finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“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,” Latifi said.
“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.”
Williams team principal Jost Capito believes the team is signing one of the “most exciting young talents” in Albon, and expects his previous F1 experience will prove invaluable.
“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,” said Capito.
“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.
“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.”