The 2019-2020 one has not been a mayhem of a driver market. Teams basically kept their previous line-ups, with only Robert Kubica and Nico Hulkenberg giving farewell to the sport, leaving the seats to Nicholas Latifi and Esteban Ocon. We have already had the chance to get to know the young Frenchman, who has raced for Manor in 2016, and for Racing Point in 2017 and 2018. So, let’s walk though Latifi’s career, in order to learn something about the only rookie on the 2020 Formula 1 grid.
Born in 1995 in Toronto from a rich canadian family, Nicholas only started to race in 2009, at the age of 14. Also due to his ‘not that young age’, Latifi choosed to stay in karting just for three years until 2011.
Among sporadic appearances in various categories, his main Formula journey started in 2012, when he signed with BVM for the Italian Formula 3. After winning his debut race in Vallelunga, Nicholas was never able to repeat that result, finishing the championship in seventh position.
2013 has been a very busy year for the young Canadian: he took part in many series including British F3, Masters of Formula 3 and, most importantly, the European Formula 3 championship -driving for Carlin in all of them. The few results achieved in 2013 suggested that maybe he had made a step too big to handle, convincing him to stay pretty much on the same level for next year.
Latifi joined full time the 2014 European Formula 3 season driving for Prema. Scoring one podium thoughout the championship, Nicholas finished tenth in the standings. The same year he also debuted in GP2 (nowdays known as Formula 2), taking part at two races with Hilmer Motorsport.
2015 was a year of transition for the Canadian, getting used to GP2 by racing in other 8 occasions, and racing also in Formula Renault 3.5 and in Porsche Carrera Cup GB.
The ‘big’ year followed, with Nicholas becoming a F1 test driver for Renault and earning his first full season in GP2 with DAMS, the team that kept him until the end of 2019. The GP2 season didn’t go as planned, with just one podium finish and P16 in the overall standings.
Renault confirmed him as test driver for 2017 as well, and Nicholas also started to get used to the re-branded Formula 2 Championship finishing that year with one race win and nine podiums. He put his name up to fifth place in the championship, behind Charles Leclerc, Artem Markelov, Oliver Rowland and Luca Ghiotto.
After an ‘up’, came a ‘down’. 2018 was a tough season for the Canadian, who finished P11 in the F2 championship. At the same time, he saw less-experienced team-mate Alex Albon finishing P3 and being promoted to Formula 1. Still, Nicholas left the Renault family, to become test driver for Force India.
A huge investment of 200 million pounds in McLaren shares made by his father, suggested Nicholas would eventually have joined the team, but that was not the case.
Finally the ‘golden year’ came and in 2019, having also signed as Williams’ test driver, Latifi finally managed to put the pieces together finishing in second place overall, with four wins and eight podiums in his bag.
When Latifi officially earned the superlicence points needed to race in Formula 1, Williams made the announcement about the Canadian joining the team for the F1 2020 season.
Now his future is in his hands: will Latifi keep the great momentum of 2019 going and show the world his talent, or will 2020 be another year of ‘down’ for him? With George Russell as team-mate, the benchmark is set high, but Nicholas for sure will try his best to prove himself and shut the voices who call him a mere pay-driver.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin 🙌 https://t.co/qqSP4Hnyyp— ROKiT WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) January 11, 2020