The 2020 Formula 1 World Championship grid is complete, with Williams Racing confirming that reserve driver Nicholas Latifi will be promoted to a full-time race seat in place of Robert Kubica.
The 24-year-old Canadian currently sits second overall in this year’s FIA Formula 2 Championship standings with the DAMS team, having dovetailed his racing commitments with six FP1 outings for the Williams team at selected Grands Prix this season.
“I am thrilled to be stepping up as race driver for 2020,” Latifi said of his promotion.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team this year, supporting them with the development of the car, and assisting wherever I can trackside and at the factory. I look forward to the journey ahead with the team, and I am excited to make my Formula One debut at the Australian Grand Prix in 2020.”
Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal added: “I am delighted to announce that Nicholas will be stepping up to the role of Race Driver to partner George in 2020.
“All of us at Williams have been immensely impressed at what he has achieved this year in FIA Formula 2, along with his commitment to the team, and the work that he has put in behind the scenes. Nicholas has become an established and well-respected member of Williams, and we look forward to him stepping up into this new role, as we look to fight our way back to the midfield.”
With Kubica’s announcement in September that he was leaving the Grove squad, Latifi soon emerged as the frontrunner to claim the Polish driver’s seat and be teammate to George Russell, who is signed to a multi-year agreement.
Williams’ options were limited. Suffering their worst season in their history, the team’s performances and lack of budget gave them few candidates to potentially select. The team had targeted Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Ocon – a logical choice given the Frenchman’s ties to their engine supplier – prior to his confirmed move to Renault.
Nico Hülkenberg, the driver Ocon will replace next year, was also briefly considered a prospect to return to the team with whom he made his Grand Prix debut in 2010, but those negotiations didn’t progress very far.
While it was not believed a requirement to land the drive, it would be remiss not to acknowledge that Latifi will also bring significant financial backing to Williams’ coffers to offset the loss of sponsor Orlen who are tied to the outgoing Kubica.
Latifi’s father Michael controls the Sofina Foods conglomerate, which is one of the largest meat, poultry, seafood and delicatessen product suppliers in Canada and the United States. Its subsidiaries include the Lilydale, Mastro, Fletcher’s and Cuddy brands. The company earns revenues in excess of $800 million per year; last year Latifi Sr purchased a 9.84% shareholding in the McLaren Group for $350 million.
|2020 Formula 1 World Championship – Provisional Entry List (to-date)|
|Mercedes-AMG Petronas||Lewis Hamilton||Valtteri Bottas|
|Scuderia Ferrari||Sebastian Vettel||Charles Leclerc|
|Red Bull Racing||Max Verstappen||Alexander Albon|
|McLaren Renault||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Lando Norris|
|Renault F1 Team||Daniel Ricciardo||Esteban Ocon|
|Racing Point BWT Mercedes||Sergio Pérez||Lance Stroll|
|Scuderia Alpha Tauri||Pierre Gasly||Daniil Kvyat|
|Alfa Romeo Racing||Kimi Räikkönen||Antonio Giovinazzi|
|Haas F1 Team
||Kevin Magnussen||Romain Grosjean|
|Williams Racing||George Russell||Nicholas Latifi|
Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship and Williams Racing