The Williams F1 Team have announced the signing of Canadian F2 driver Nicholas Latifi as their reserve driver for the 2019 season.
He replaces Robert Kubica who, as has been well publicised, moves into a race seat alongside Britain’s George Russell.
Nicholas Latifi has spent the 2018 season as Racing Point Force India’s test driver, and prior to that he spent two years in a similar role at Renault, so he brings with him experience of driving the current generation of Formula 1 cars, albeit not in a racing environment.
Latifi’s racing career began in 2012, when, as a 16 year old, he participated in the Italian F3 championship, finishing the season in 7th place overall.
Since then he has competed in five seasons of GP2/Formula 2, registering two wins and earning a highest championship position of fifth.
While Latifi has landed himself test roles with midfield Formula 1 teams Racing Point Force India and Renault, his career has stagnated somewhat, with five years in F2 being an unusually long time to spend in F1’s primary feeder series.
Typically if a driver is worthy of an opportunity to graduate from F2 to Formula 1, it will happen in the first year or two.
But for Latifi, still just 23, it’s been a lengthier process, in part due to the finite number of seats in F1, and the fierce competition that currently exists for these seats.
While racing pedigree is really what we want to be talking about when discussing a new driver to the F1 fold, in 2019 we all know that finance plays a significant part in the career progression of many drivers.
And so it must be noted that Nicholas Latifi is the son of Michael Latifi, founder of Sofina foods Ltd. a Canadian protein foods manufacturer.
Michael Latifi owns a 10% stake in the McLaren Formula 1 Team, and while that would suggest that Nicholas will inevitably gravitate towards McLaren, McLaren CEO Zak Brown has said that there were no discussions around Nicholas driving for the team prior to Michael investing almost £200m in the team in 2018.
So Nicholas Latifi must grab the opportunity with Williams with both hands, take inspiration from the progress Robert Kubica has made while in the exact same role, ready himself to race in Formula 1 should the need arise, and in doing so make the best case for his suitability for a race seat in Formula 1 with Williams or another team in 2020 and beyond.
Good luck Nicholas!