Thankfully the days of blatant ‘pay-per-drive’ Formula One drivers is predominantly finished. Putin’s invasion of Russia put pay to the last great ‘buying a seat’ in F1 as Russian oil company Uralkali and its Haas driver Nikita Mazarin were forced out of the sport. Yet there are still drivers on the F1 grid who bring finance to their teams and Nicholas Latifi is one.
The Canadian driver’s father is worth around £2.5bn and is the major shareholder in Sofia the Williams team main sponsor. In 2020 the sponsorship from Sofina to Williams was a reported $40m.
Following Alex Albon being taken ill with appendicitis on Saturday morning, Williams were forced to call on their reserve driver Nyck de Vries. Whilst the Dutch drier was slower in FP3 than his established team mate, he picked up his pace in Qualifying to out qualify Lafifi who was eliminated in Q1.
De Vries would likely have made it into Q3 but for being unfamiliar with the controls on his steering wheel and accidentally changing the brake bias during the Less corners which caused his car to slide costing him a few tenths of a second.
Nyck eventually started the race in P8 due to grid drops from power unit penalties suffered by a number of drivers and despite not being physically ready to race an F1 car, he brought the Williams home to score 2 points on debut.
The young dutch driver was helped from his car at the end of the race, due to the extreme physical nature required to race an F1 car. He admitted due to his current work schedule he would need to spend more time in the gym if he were to repeat F1 racing weeks in week out.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 11, 2022
Williams other driver Latifi by contrast again scored 0. The Canadian is the only permanent F1 driver this season to score 0 points all year.
The inevitable has happened since de Vries impressive debut in Monza with paddock media and fans on social media questioning the worth of Williams’ Canadian driver and some calling for him to be immediately replaced with De Vries.
Matt Gallagher presenter of F1TV posted
It took just one race for Nyck de Vries to push Latifi into 21st in a 20 driver championship
Just let that sink in
— Matt Gallagher (@MattyWTF1) September 11, 2022
Fans also commented, “Hoping to see de Vries in the Williams again in Singapore,” one wrote.
“They need to immediately sack Nicholas Latifi after this embarrassment,” another posted.
Nyck de Vries was refreshing when questioned about whether his debut race had been a successful ‘job interview.’
“This world is very volatile and not only merit counts,” De Vries humbly responded.
“It’s out of my control. But this no one can take away from me, so regardless of the future whether I’m here or not, I can look back on a proud debut and first moment in Formula 1. I enjoyed it,”
However, team boss Jost Capito may have provided some hope when he commented on his debutants drive in the Monza GP.
“Nyck didn’t show that he was nervous, I’m sure he was on the inside. I told before the race & go have fun. Nyck is always on our list (for 2023), but he’s got other commitments as well.
So it’s up to him. He has to see what is future is & we go from there.”
This is the only reponse we have from Williams at this time to the calls to sack Latifi and replace him with de Vries.
De Vries may yet substitute again for Alex Albon in Singapore. Particlularly given the British-Thai driver eventually required surgery to remove his appendix and the recuperation time required together with the forces placed upon the body driving in F1 car are not conducive to a complete recovery in time.
In reality as one twitter member joked, “insert”
Williams: If you finish P20 this year you’ll lose your seat
Latifi: Jokes on you, P21 lads, see you at the factory next year
— Simon Weigang (@CRGSimon) September 11, 2022
Simply because of the funding the Canadian’s father brings to the team means Latifi has a good chance of retaining his seat in 2023.
Ironically it may be Alex Albon who loses out.