F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar
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Christian Horner has responded to Toto Wolff after the Mercedes boss insisted Red Bull should release Alexander Albon from his contract with the team. The driver has had talks with both Williams – who are looking to replace George Russell after the British star signed for Mercedes from next season – and Alfa Romeo ahead of the 2022 season.
Red Bull are eager to get the Thai-British driver back in a seat for next season, but the situation is complicated.
Williams are believed to be his preferred option and Mercedes – who supply the team’s engine – are worried that Albon could relay classified information to their rivals.
Red Bull are set to begin their own power unit project from 2022 while their current supplier Honda announced they will leave Formula 1 at the end of this season.
As a result, Wolff told media members at the Dutch Grand Prix that the only way Albon can drive for Williams is if Red Bull ends its contract with the 25-year-old.
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Horner does not understand why Wolff is getting involved and insisted Williams can make their own independent choice.
“It’s slightly unusual,” Horner said when talking about his Mercedes rival’s recent comments.
“Obviously it’s a huge influence, but I’m assured that Williams choose the drivers that they wish to drive in their car, and that they don’t have restrictions.”
The Red Bull boss admitted that their sole objective is to get Albon a seat on the grid next season and he is adamant it can happen without cutting ties to the young driver.
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He also confirmed the interest of Williams and Alfa Romeo in Albon.
“Maybe we don’t [have to release Albon from his Red Bull contract],” Horner suggested.
“We’ve had very productive discussions with Williams and with Alfa, and I expect the situation to hopefully be resolved in the next week or so.
“Obviously we want to see Alex racing next year. We rate him highly. I think we’re close to finding a solution.
“Hopefully Alex will be back on the grid next year and, behind the scenes, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that happens.”
It appears to only be Mercedes employing such tactics, as Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto declared he would not block Albon from driving for Alfa Romeo.
Alfa Romeo are customers of Ferrari’s engine, and the team’s Driving Academy graduate Antonio Giovinazzi is driving for the team alongside Kimi Raikkonen in 2021.
“I believe that whatever is happening between the team and the driver, it is between the team and driver,” Binotto said.
“As manufacturers, we should not influence that.
“If a driver has an opportunity to drive and the team is happy to give him a seat, then they should give him a seat.”
F1 completes its triple-header this weekend at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.
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