Mercedes boss Toto Wolff tells Red Bull to release driver so he can steal star

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Toto Wolff has declared Red Bull must release driver Alexander Albon if the driver wants to join Mercedes-powered Williams and return to Formula 1. Current Williams driver George Russell, who secured a maiden podium thanks to his stunning qualifying at Spa before the Belgian Grand Prix was abandoned, is expected to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes.

A number of names are being linked with the vacant seat at Williams, and one of them is the Thai-British driver.

Albon last raced in Formula 1 for Red Bull, but the 25-year-old struggled to match the standard expected at the Milton Keynes team and he was replaced by Sergio Perez.

Wolff, the team principal of Mercedes, has previously denied reports he would block Albon joining Williams.

However, on Saturday Wolff made it known that he does not want a driver under contract with a rival driving for a Mercedes-powered team.

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“It’s one thing about the power unit and I think with Albon, as I said yesterday, he’s a driver that deserves a seat in Formula 1,” the 49-year-old told members of the media.

“But it’s tricky to have a 100 per cent Red Bull driver on a Mercedes power unit. 

“So, [I am] happy to work with him, as long as they let him free from his Red Bull contract.”

On Friday, Red Bull chief Christian Horner revealed Mercedes have called Albon several times to try and dissuade him from joining Williams.

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Wolff claimed the calls were not entirely what Horner suggested, and instead implied they were merely exploring opportunities with Albon along with reigning Formula E champion Nyck de Vries.

“Alex is in regular contact with Gwen Lagrue, who is running our Mercedes junior programme, and they were discussing with James Vowles, our head of strategy, the opportunities for next year,” Wolff added.

“Then things get always, how can I say? Tweaked, in a way.

“He wasn’t told to do or not do anything, it was just exploring the opportunities for Alex, and for Nyck, in an amicable way.”

In looking for such opportunities, Wolff insisted he would not stand in De Vries’ way should a seat open up – even if it wasn’t at a team partnered with Mercedes.

It has been reported recently that De Vries could take over from Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi – arguably the star of qualifying at the Dutch Grand Prix – at Alfa Romeo, who are powered by Ferrari.

“[He] is a Mercedes works driver in Formula E, but I will never stand in Nyck’s way to drive in Formula 1,” Wolff stated.

“We have no management contract with him, neither do we have an option of taking him back in.

“Therefore, Nyck can drive in anything.”

After a trip to Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, the Dutch Grand Prix is the second week in an F1 triple-header ahead of next week’s Italian Grand Prix.

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