Canadian Nicholas Latifi has announced that he and Williams Racing are to part company at the end of the current Formula 1 season.
Latifi, who joined Williams as test/reserve driver in 2019 before being promoted to a full-timed driver role the following year, has for some time appeared off the pace set by any one of his team-mates.
Unfortunately, Latifi may be best remembered for his role in the controversial 2021 championship decider in Abu Dhabi, when on lap 56 – in last place – he crashed, and the resulting safety car (along with some, ahem, ‘questionable’ decision making from race control) allowed Max Verstappen to snatch the title from Lewis Hamilton on the very last lap of the season.
Latifi arrived at Williams at a time when the team was in desperate need of financial support, bringing with him a wealth of sponsorship from father Michael’s business portfolio, and subsequently with a $20m loan secured against Williams’ HQ & fleet of historic cars, allowing the team to weather the COVID storm of 2020.
However, Dorilton Capital’s buyout of Williams Racing in August 2020 brought with it a new direction, and a sound financial footing, and so, with Latifi snr’s loan paid back in full, Williams found themselves with less of a need for a ‘pay driver’, and the writing was on the wall for Latifi.
Most recently, having been squarely outpaced by full-time team-mates George Russell, and then Alex Albon, when Nyck De Vries was drafted in to make his debut replacing a sick AA at Monza, and he too outpaced the Canadian, it all but cemented Latifi’s departure.
There is no word yet on who might replace Nicky at Williams, but with some movement remaining in the 2023 F1 driver market, any one of De Vries, Schumacher, Giovinazzi, Hulkenberg and Magnussen may yet find themselves in search of a drive.
Or, Williams may decide to promote from within, and give young American Williams Racing academy driver Logan Sargeant his opportunity in F1. That comes with its own risk however, as it will only be known whether Sargeant acquires the super license points he requires after the end of the current F2 season in November, by which time all the alternatives may have signed elsewhere.
Nicholas Latifi gets a lot of grief from the wider F1 community who have come to see him (unfairly) as a bit of a calamity, and not good enough to occupy one of the 20 seats in F1. However, I feel that’s a bit unfair. He’s a thoroughly nice guy, and his junior career proved that he more than deserved a crack at the big time.
But I think even his most fervent supporters would say he’s had that crack, and it might be time for him to make way for someone else.
But I wish him all the best for whatever he chooses to do in future. Thanks Nicky!