Current Red Bull reserve Albon is looking to seal a full-time return to the F1 grid next year with both Williams and Alfa Romeo interested in signing the Anglo-Thai racer.

Albon’s preference is to join Williams but over the Dutch Grand Prix weekend, Toto Wolff said Mercedes would only be happy to work with Albon at its customer team if he was "free" from his Red Bull contract. 

Red Bull team principal Horner described Wolff’s demand as “slightly unusual” and hopes the situation can be resolved without the need to release Albon.

“It’s obviously a huge influence but I’m assured that Williams chooses the drivers that they wish to drive in the car and they don’t have restrictions,” he added.

Asked why Red Bull would have to split from Albon if that was the case, Horner said: “Maybe we don’t.

“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.”

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Horner stressed Red Bull will do everything in its power to ensure Albon can seal a return to the F1 grid for next year.

“We obviously want to see Alex racing next year,” he said. “We rate him highly and I think we’re close to finding a solution, and of course it’s not just Williams that are showing interest in him.

“So hopefully Alex will be back on the grid next year. Behind the scenes, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that happens.”

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto also weighed in on Wolff’s stance and believes it is “wrong” for manufacturers to try and dictate who drives for their customer teams.

“I believe that whatever is happening between a team and a driver that’s between the team and a driver and as manufacturers, we should not influence,” he said. “I think that would be wrong.

“If a driver has got an opportunity to drive he should simply have the opportunity to drive, wherever it is coming from and if the team is happy to give him a seat, they need to give him a seat. That’s it.”

And Binotto dismissed the suggestion that Ferrari has held a controlling influence over one of the seats at Alfa Romeo, the team its junior Antonio Giovinazzi has raced for since 2019.

“Ferrari have never a word on the ‘Ferrari seat’ on Alfa,” he said. “It was a contact between Alfa Romeo, so it was a right of the sponsor Alfa Romeo on the Sauber car.”