Column | End of F1 career for Latifi? Possible successors at Williams

Column | End of F1 career for Latifi? Possible successors at Williams

14 April - 09:08 Last update: 20:00

Nicholas Latifi has had a disastrous start to the 2022 Formula One season. The Canadian is clearly under pressure and the question is how long he can keep his seat. GPblog looks at who Williams might be able to get as a replacement in 2023.

A 'pay-driver' after all

In 2021 Jost Capito stood up for his driver Latifi. The Williams driver received a lot of criticism because, for the second year in a row, he had been beaten by George Russell and could not make a challenge. Latifi's move to F1 was questionable anyway, as he barely won any races or titles in the starting classes.

Reference was made to the money Latifi brings with the help of his father Michael, who as the owner of Sofina Foods can put his acquired money into his son's career. According to Williams and Capito, it was mostly Russell who was so good and went to Mercedes for a reason, and not necessarily Latifi who was so bad.

However, those words take on a completely different connotation in 2022 now that Alexander Albon has come in as Russell's replacement and he is also beating Latifi. In fact, the difference in qualifying in the first three races is even bigger than the difference with Russell was. Latifi also feels that pressure and that is reflected in his performance.

The Canadian himself knows that it must be better against a new teammate and is therefore even more on and over the limit. He crashed into the wall in both qualifying and the race in Saudi Arabia and again suffered damage on Saturday in Australia. This time Lance Stroll was blamed, but Latifi's own action were also remarkable.

New owners of Williams

Whereas in the past Williams needed drivers like Latifi to make the budget, that is no longer the case with the arrival of Dorilton Capital. The new owners are already making the budget and with the budget cap, the team doesn't necessarily need extra money anymore. Latifi was therefore chosen "as the best possible driver".

Of course, you could already question this prior to 2022, but maybe Russell was indeed really that good. Now that this is not the case and the conclusion seems to be that Latifi is just not good enough, it is hard to imagine that the ambitious owners are willing to put up with this kind of mismanagement any longer. In 2023 things have to change.

Still F1 for De Vries?

Assuming that Albon will keep his spot at Williams as the new frontrunner, there is one spot left at Williams. The first name that comes up is that of Nyck de Vries. He was in the running for the spot at Williams in 2022. He was a serious candidate, but then the team opted for the F1 experience of Albon. De Vries beat Latifi in their final season in F2, but it was the Canadian who was allowed to go to F1 and De Vries who headed for Formula E. There he became world champion in his second season.

Stoffel Vandoorne is De Vries' teammate at Mercedes' FE team and, with two years at McLaren, also has F1 experience. At thirty years old, the Belgian is not the youngest anymore, but he is a stable factor for a team that wants to climb up the ladder. The same goes for Nico Hulkenberg, who has even more F1 experience, is eager to get back into the sport and is showing at Aston Martin that without preparation he is not inferior to their drivers.

Another Red Bull driver?

There are more issues at play in the driver market than just around Williams, however, so it will also be interesting for the Grove-based team to see who else is released. On Wednesday, an article already appeared on GPblog looking at the situation at Red Bull. There may be more talents there than there is room for at Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri. Williams might be able to put one of those talents to good use.

The first collaboration between Red Bull and Williams went well with the transfer of Albon and that could be another possibility down the road. Pierre Gasly may see in Williams a team that he can go to the top with if he doesn't get a chance at Red Bull Racing. Liam Lawson and Juri Vips are also knocking on the door of AlphaTauri. If they perform well in F2, but there is no place in the Red Bull racing stable, then that might be an opportunity for Williams to contract a talented driver.

Alpine's situation

There is a similar situation at Alpine. Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon are the regular drivers of which Ocon has a contract until 2024 and Alonso would like to continue for many more years. The performance of both drivers also gives Alpine no reason to part with them, but that does create a luxury problem.

Indeed, on the reserve bench Alpine has the reigning Formula 2 champion and former Formula 3 champion, Oscar Piastri. The Australian won those titles in his first attempt and is considered a huge talent. He is being groomed for Formula 1 as a reserve driver, but with which team? Maybe Williams?

Alonso is not expected to go to Williams if Alpine sidelines him, but if Ocon's contract is broken to give Piastri a place, the Frenchman could also make the move to Williams. For him, that could still be an interesting place to continue his career and for Williams, that would be an excellent driver.

Williams Driver Academy

Williams also has its own driver training team, but it does not have the same talents as Red Bull and Alpine. In Formula 2, there are currently Roy Nissany and Logan Sargeant driving. Nissany throws people off the track every week and Sargeant does not seem ready (yet). The young American already finished third in Formula 3, but only scored nine points in F2 in 2022. Jamie Chadwick is also part of the Williams training, but whether she is good enough for F1 is difficult to assess from the W Series.

So Williams itself has no one ready and will have to look for suitable candidates. There are experienced and stable replacements in the form of Hulkenberg, Vandoorne and De Vries, but also unique opportunities to pluck talents from other programs. Oscar Piastri, Liam Lawson and Juri Vips would be interesting names for Williams to acquire.

One thing is certain: drivers can make a difference with the current cars and within a team. Russell took his team by the hand by putting in unique performances, where Latifi is helping his team into trouble with all his crashes. Whatever replacement Williams chooses, they will be better off in 2023 than this year anyway.

Let us know in the comments if you agree that Latifi should leave and who Williams should choose as his replacement?

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