Did Williams F1 act too hastily by signing rookie Nicholas Latifi for a second year?

Nicholas Latifi (Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Nicholas Latifi (Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Charles Coates

• Williams signed both its drivers to 2021 contracts.

• Latifi failed to make an impression so far this season

• Williams are looking to the future by resigning Russell and Latifi.

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Formula 1 is not a sport for the faint-hearted, nor is it a sport for a driver who fails to bring home the bacon. We've seen it over the years: A driver would come into the sport, fail to make an impact, and be ousted by the time the end of the season comes around. Several drivers who are competing in the 2020 F1 championship have met that same fate, too.

Both Haas drivers, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were 'kicked out' of F1 several years ago, but by the luck of the draw, they managed to find their ways back. Daniil Kvyat of AlphaTauri is another driver who is lucky enough to have kept his foot in the door. Though these drivers are of the lucky few, others are not as fortunate.

In 2020, only one new driver joined the grid, that being Nicholas Latifi who drives for the struggling Williams F1 team. Latifi partners George Russell, but the rookie's debut season is not getting off to the best of starts. Yet, Williams, after just three races, confirmed that they are retaining their current drivers' services for 2021. Russell one can understand, but Latifi?

Poor showing

Latifi is entering F1 with the slowest team of the last few years, Williams. In 2019, the team ended the season in the last position with a solitary point to their name. This year, after three races, Williams is still in last place and with zero points scored. But in the hands of Russell, the car looks vastly better than last year's one and did the driver even manage to get into the second part of qualifying.

Latifi, on the other hand, is not having any luck so far and his season is failing to make an impression. In Austria, the first race of the season, he qualified last of the 2020 drivers and finished last of the 11 drivers who made it to the end of the race.

READ: Why these teams are at risk of leaving Formula 1 due to the global pandemic

The following week at the Styrian Grand Prix, Latifi had a better qualifying, securing 18th place on the grid, but again finished in last place of the 17 finishers, albeit one position behind Russell.

Hungary saw a much better showing by Latifi, with both Williams cars making it to the second part of qualifying. Russell qualified 12th and Latifi in 15th. In the race, again, Latifi finished in last place of the 19 finishers and Russell a position ahead. However, while Russell and every one up to the sixth position was lapped once by race winner, Lewis Hamilton, Latifi was lapped five times. Five times! Yet, Williams thought it'd be a good idea to resign Latifi for 2021.

Is there any logic to it?

While strong results are essential in F1, so, too, is continuity. The Mercedes-AMG F1 team is a prime example thereof, with the team and Hamilton making good on their relationship since 2013. In that time, only Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas (since 2017) have partnered Hamilton, helping to establish a strong sense of continuity in the team.

In Williams' case, they were somewhat unlucky when it comes to that. In 2017, for example, they had Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa on their books. In 2018, Sergey Sirotkin replaced Massa. In 2019, Stroll left the team to race for his father's newly acquired F1 team, Force India (now Racing Point), and Williams decided to rope in two entirely new drivers: Russell and Robert Kubica. Kubica's contract was not renewed, and Williams called up Latifi.

READ: Is George Russell ready for a move to Mercedes and teaming up with Hamilton in 2021?

Williams never could create a culture of stability and continuity, and the dynamic between team and driver(s) never realized its full potential. But signing Russell and Latifi to 2021, the team is showing its intent on not only building a stable relationship with its drivers but also securing a reliant driving pairing when the all-important 2022 regulations come into effect in two years.

Latifi might not be bringing home the bacon, but he will grow into his role at Williams and learn how to understand his car better. So was signing him to a new contract a hasty decision? Yes, but it was a decision in the benefit of the team.

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