How Nicholas Latifi is Developing into a Formula 1 Leader with Williams

At 26 years old, Williams Racing’s Nicholas Latifi finds himself in an unfamiliar situation. The third-year Formula 1 driver enters 2022 as the garage leader. 

At least that’s the expectation. 

With George Russell off to Mercedes, flying wingman to Lewis Hamilton, and Alex Albon, 25, returning to an F1 seat after a year standing and analyzing from the sidelines, Latifi will be essential to leading Williams back to respectability. 

Nicholas Latifi claims responsibility to lead Williams back into F1 relevance 

 It’s been a while since Williams was relevant in F1. But during the 1990s, no organization was better with various pilots.

Here’s a sample of Williams’ 1990s dominance:

  • 1997: Jacques Villeneuve earned his first drivers’ title, and Williams its ninth constructors’ championship.
  • 1996: Damon Hill claimed the drivers’ crown, and Williams the team title.
  • 1994: Despite the death of driver Ayrton Senna, Williams won the constructors’ crown.
  • 1993: Alain Prost posted his fourth drivers’ pennant, then retired.
  • 1992: Nigel Mansell opened the season with five consecutive wins, and he cruised to the drivers’ title, also leading the team to the constructors’ championship.

But that was then.

This is now.

Williams placed eighth of 10 F1 teams in 2021, and the team’s founder, Sir Frank Williams, died at 79.
In ’20, it failed to register a top-10 point for the first time in team history.

From 2004 to ’12, it failed to win a race. 

It’s Latifi’s time.

Latifi: ‘Beyond the driving, I really need to take a leadership role’ 

Williams’ Nicholas Latifi drives during the final practice ahead of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on Dec. 11, 2021, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Entering his third season with Williams, Latifi has just one top 10, a P7, in 39 career F1 starts. He spent the past two seasons as the organization’s No. 2 driver. Russell was considered a better prospect despite third-grid racing in most of his outings.

Latifi understands the pressure of being a leader is something he will be forced to grow into next season. The affable Canadian will be counted on to continue providing competent technical feedback.

“It’s difficult to set targets because you don’t know where the performance of the car is going to be, so once we see how that is that will be easier to do,” he told the-race,com near the end of the ’21 campaign. “But beyond the driving, I really need to take a leadership role. It’s a new car, fresh start, the feedback will be crucial, and that will be something new for me in F1 which I haven’t experienced yet.”

Latifi’s crash during the late stages of the Abu Dhabi GP set off series of infamous events  

Embracing a leadership role is not the only challenging aspect of the offseason Latifi is experiencing. As Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled for the drivers’ championship during the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Latifi battled Haas driver Mick Schumacher for 15th place. Latifi crashed, signaling the infamous caution period.  

Verstappen used the break in racing to change tires. The move set up his Red Bull Racing machine for a dramatic last-lap pass of Hamilton, securing his first F1 title. Controversy followed, and Latifi started receiving potentially harmful social media messages. Reportedly, he’s handled the situation like a leader. He has gone about his business to prepare for his big test next season.

For Williams to return to relevance, “I need to take on that leadership role and be confident in my decisions,” he said.

At least that’s the expectation.

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