Williams' 'high ceiling' why Alex Albon signed new contract

Why Imola is 'exciting' for Ferrari-bound Hamilton (0:46)

Nate Saunders previews Lewis Hamilton's first race on Italian soil as he's set to join Ferrari at the end of the season. (0:46)

IMOLA, Italy -- Alex Albon has said Williams can win races again during his stint with the team, which he has extended to at least 2027 with a newly signed contract.

Albon had previously on a deal until next season, but Williams confirmed his extension on Wednesday.

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It was a ringing endorsement of the Williams project -- team boss James Vowles has been frank about how long it might take to transform the former champions back into a competitive entity.

The team was without a spare chassis for the early part of the season and has so far failed to score a point.

Albon said his decision was not based on the here and now.

"I know the team; I know the people in the team. I believe in the project. I believe in James and the board," Albon said on Thursday ahead of this weekend's Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Italian circuit Imola.

"I think the ceiling at Williams is higher than what we're showing at the moment. Clearly, to me, especially around our direct rivals that we're racing against right now, I think when I look at what the team should be able to achieve in the next few years, it should be higher than the teams we're racing at right now."

Albon's form since joining Williams has made him one of the hottest commodities on the grid, and ESPN sources had previously indicated he was high on Red Bull's list for 2026, with Albon's previous contract making a move for 2025 unlikely.

The Thai driver admitted contact with other teams about his future but said he felt a long-term stay with Williams was the right call.

"I won't say what teams that I was speaking to, but there were a few. Inevitably, it just fell down to what team do I think suited me best and that was Williams. So, looking at everything, there was obviously a lot of time to make a choice.

"It does seem a little bit now like it's all just kind of being a bit of a waiting game and everyone just kind of delaying, delaying and whatnot. So, on my side, it was just about get it done, get it signed and focus more on building the story and focusing on the future for the team."

Williams boss Vowles joined from Mercedes in 2023 and has been open at how shocked he was to see the gulf the team had to some of F1's biggest outfits.

A sweeping change of F1's regulations in 2026 will open up the possibility of a reset competitive order.

Albon said he believes Williams can win under those new rules.

Asked if 2026 will be a game changer for Williams, Albon said: "I believe so, but I believe every team believes that. I think there's no secret that everyone keeps talking about 2026 being a chance.

"Realistically, my main feeling about 2026 is the foundations of a team need to be strong to be able to have a good season. A couple of years ago, I don't think Williams were in that position to be able to be strong in 2026. We're almost there, but we've got a year and a half to get there before we can. I think truthfully as well, the Mercedes PU [power unit] should be strong, I'm hoping, and that should help us. Give us maybe another year to get and understand the regulations."

He added: "It will take time and I think there's no secret that, especially how dominant a team like Red Bull is, they don't really have a weakness. At the moment, we have a few, so it's going to take time to do that. In terms of immediate success, no. We have to take realistic steps forward. But I do think we're thinking outside the box in terms of how we are going to establish ourselves as a front-running team.

"If my contract is long enough to get the success, let's see. But of course, if I see the direction we're going is correct, then that's another talking point. I even think next year might take a bit of time. But by 2026, I think we'll have all our systems firing and it should be a good step."

The identity of Albon's teammate beyond 2024 is unclear, with American driver Logan Sergeant appearing to be on very thin ice in terms of his future.

Vowles said on Thursday on the subject: "I'm looking, at the moment, at about three options for 2025 and 2026. It's as simple as that.

"When we're in a position where I can talk about it openly, which won't be long, we will do."

Retaining Sargeant is believed to be one of those options. However, the lone American driver on the F1 grid has failed to produce consistent performances since joining the team in 2023.

"Logan has control in his hands in making sure he's performing at that level," Vowles said of the Florida native. "That's his ability to control. I haven't taken that away from him.

"But what's clear is we also need to be talking to others, and we are."

Vowles has been assessing the status of Mercedes wondered Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who cannot race until he turns 18 in August, but there are also the likes of former race winner and former Williams driver Valtteri Bottas still available for next season.

When asked if he had any input in deciding his teammate, Albon said: "No, not my area."

Information from Reuters contributed to this news story.