James Vowles, Alexander Albon and Valtteri Bottas weigh in on the empty Mercedes seat which opened up after Lewis Hamilton’s move.

The Hamilton to Ferrari storyline has opened up the silly season for F1 2025. The coveted Mercedes seat has opened up alongside George Russell with many takers. Two obvious names linked straightaway are Albon and Bottas.

The Thai is in his third season with Williams, who uses Mercedes components. Even with Red Bull support, Albon could see an opportunity if it comes and jump ship. In recent times, he has been linked with Ferrari and even Red Bull.

The former is now out of question, while the latter could be a possibility but he has to fight with Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo for it. For now, Williams boss Vowles has ruled out dropping Albon by revealing a contract until the end of the 2025 F1 season.

However, Williams will have to showcase that they have the car to challenge for top positions which Vowles is aware of. In fact, Albon was very coy when speaking after the launch, regarding his future. Even though he has the contract, but he is open as well.

He concurred with Vowles on the topic of delivery from Williams’ side. The same goes with Bottas, who is in his last year with Stake F1 Team. The Finn was at Brackley when the news broke, but it wasn’t related to the Mercedes seat. He wouldn’t mind returning as he notes of no burned bridges.

Here’s what was said –

Albon secured, relation with him –

Vowles: “On Alex, so Alex is signed in Williams until the end of 2025. That site, it’s not something I’ve been very public about, because I don’t feel the need to. So any reports that you’re seeing, and there’s one in particular, that individual is speculating at best. As I’ve also said, publicly, it is our job in Williams to create a new environment that deserves someone of the calibre of Alex. Simple as that. And I’ve said that from the beginning and I still maintain that. He is an incredible driver that deserves his place towards the front. He did drives last year, they’re no different than some of the other champions I’ve worked with.

“He kept half the field behind in one race, and we put him in difficult positions. And he overcame that to score points. He and I have good chats about where we want to move forward and where we want to move forward is we want to have our journey together in this team for a long time. We have to earn that right. It’s not given by any stretch of imagination, nor should it be for that matter. So it’s back to the original question, we have to demonstrate to the world that we’re not Williams of old, that we’re not looking backwards, we’re moving forward continuously.

“But hopefully that provides clarity. For the situation with Alex, would I stand in his way? I have the responsibility of Williams on my shoulder, that’s the most important thing to me. It’s not the responsibility towards one individual. In this case, Alex, it’s a responsibility towards the team. So should any decision go that way, it’s because I’m very clear in my mind that I’ve made decisions that are correct for the team’s long term goals, not short term.”

Hamilton news –

Albon: “Great for the sport. What a news story it was. I don’t know about you guys, I definitely didn’t see it coming. But good for him, I think he wants that change up. The timing of it is obviously awkward, more for it being the week before all the teams are doing their announcements. But for me, it just shows you how big Lewis is, seeing the stock of Ferrari going up as much as it did and just seeing the general perception of the news. Definitely to me it was one of them ‘pinch yourself’ moments: Is this a real story? There’s so many rumours going on over the winter, you didn’t know what had any credibility or not. The Ferrari one definitely seemed to be a rumour to me at the very beginning of the story and then it turned out to be a real thing. So it’s great. It reminds me of kind of the Messi’s Miami transfer, on such a huge scale, and just shows you the appetite for Formula 1. Obviously as you guys saw, it lays a lot of questions in the driver market as well and opens that up.”

Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari links, so where you at –

Albon: “I would be denying if I said that there have been questions and general chats around that already. But, truthfully, personally, it’s not really my area. That’s more management and that side, my focus is about driving. So where I stand is I’m very excited to see how this FW46 develops, I want to see how the car feels in Bahrain, and the subsequent four or five and six races and really get a feel for the progression that I hope we’ve made as a team. My whole focus is on Williams. That’s where I see myself, I’m seeing about the long-term future and the rate of progression to me is also very important.

“So time will tell but that’s kind of my short-sighted view. Of course, things are moving around quite a lot, you guys know that, you guys also know there’s a lot of rumours going around. But that’s where I am at. Let’s see. Time will tell. My focus is on 2024. Let’s keep it like that. The real focus is on making sure that we make progress for 2025. That’s really where I am at. If the team is where I want it to be, it will be a long-term contract. We’re gonna go all the way or nothing. That’s my idea with it.”

Age factor –

Albon: “The reason why I say about my age is also because I feel like I’m very close to my peak. There are always improvements to be done and there are still areas to improve. But generally with my experience now and where I am, I feel like I am deserving of a car that can score podiums and fight for wins. That’s just being totally honest with how I see myself. More than anything, I want that team to be Williams and that’s where I put all my work and all my efforts into. Outside of that, it’s just how does it fall into place? It’s very clear to me, especially when you see the driver market, there’s a huge interest in teams wanting the same drivers for 2025 or 2026. That’s how it looks like it’s playing out and let’s see about that.”

Hamilton’s move, return to Mercedes if –

Bottas: “Surprised, I never actually thought that could happen, but I think it’s good for him. I mean, it’s a big opportunity, it’s a big move, and obviously he’s made the decision himself. For sure, that’s going to now escalate some movement on the market for ’25, so at the moment it’s quite hard to predict how it’s going to go. I think it’s a great challenge. I’m sure it’s a big motivation for him to bring Ferrari to the top. So yeah, it’s kind of cool and, like I said, it will definitely create some movement for the future, which is good for the whole sport – and for some drivers.

“[On photo from Brackley], it’s no lie I was in Brackley, the day before actually. We haven’t spoken on the phone with Toto. If I would go back [to Mercedes]? Yeah… obviously my priority and biggest commitment is the Audi project which is my target. If that wouldn’t happen then there’s no team I wouldn’t go to, perhaps. I know my priorities and I’ve got my list. As far as I know no burned bridges.”

Here’s Williams launch

Here’s Stake’s launch

Here’s Alexander Albon on Helmut Marko’s role in F1 drive

Here’s Pat Fry on Williams challenge

Here’s Logan Sargeant on Alexander Albon superseding in 2023

Here’s new hiring from Williams

Here’s Zane Maloney joining Stake F1 Team

Here’s Zhou Guanyu on the arrival of Andreas Seidl and James Key

Here’s Valtteri Bottas on 2024 car

Here’s Zhou Guanyu on car performance masking their own improvements

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