Latifi '100%' ready to lead Williams if Russell joins Mercedes - The Race
Formula 1

Latifi ‘100%’ ready to lead Williams if Russell joins Mercedes

Aug 26 2021
By Josh Suttill and Scott Mitchell

Nicholas Latifi claims he’s “100%” ready to lead the Williams Formula 1 team in 2022 should his current team-mate George Russell depart for Mercedes.

Latifi earned his first F1 points with a seventh-place finish in the Hungarian Grand Prix prior to the four-week summer break.

He led home Russell to break Williams’ two-year points drought and help claim the team’s biggest points haul since the 2017 Italian Grand Prix.

This was despite Latifi often trailing behind Mercedes protege Russell since the Canadian made his F1 debut at the start of the delayed 2020 season – only finishing ahead of Russell on two other occasions when both cars made the chequered flag.

Nicholas Latifi Williams F1

Speculation regarding the future of Russell continues to mount and he’s the prime candidate to partner seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next year.

This would leave Williams in need of a new team leader, a role that Latifi believes he’s ready to fill.

“Yeah, 100%, if George was to leave, and I was to remain,” Latifi said when asked by The Race if would feel ready to be the team leader.

“I would definitely feel – by nature because I’m the more experienced driver in the team – more comfortable to be the one in the team with the experience.

“Naturally going into the next year with the new car, new regulations, it would maybe be a little bit different.

Williams F1 2022 mock-up

“Because if next year we were just in another evolution on this year’s car, I think your experiences would be more valid, you know what the weaknesses and strengths were of the current car and kind of the direction you still need to take it to develop for us next year.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get [in 2022], you might have to change your driving to a completely different style, the car might be handling completely different, have completely different characteristics to this year’s car.

“In terms of leading the team based off the history of what I’ve experienced from the two years of cars I’ve driven, it’s maybe not as ideal as you would want it to be but just having that continuity in the team.

“Knowing how the guys and girls work at the track at the factory, I would definitely feel comfortable in that role.”

Williams boss Jost Capito said there was “no reason not to have him [Latifi] in next year” prior to the Hungarian GP, but there’s a slew of drivers in the mix for the two potential vacant seats.

From ex-F1 drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Alex Albon to newly-crowned Formula E champion Nyck de Vries, Latifi faces some stiff competition to remain in F1.

Nicholas Latifi Williams F1

“I definitely think the result of Budapest won’t hurt my case,” he added. “How much it adds to it is not really for me to decide.

“The team knows from behind the scenes what I’m capable of delivering. Budapest was a unique situation, I did show I was able to capitalise when the opportunity came, which is very important in Formula 1.

“It is clear that my intention and aim is to stay with the team. I think it definitely is very exciting, given the direction that the team is heading since the takeover.

“If I wasn’t in F1 next year, and if I wasn’t with Williams next year it would definitely not be ideal, I would definitely be very disappointed. Having been with the team for two of its very tricky years.

“It would definitely be nice to build the team in the right direction and, you know, be a part of that. And hopefully have many successes in the future.”

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