Formula 1: Nicholas Latifi tipped to drive for Williams in 2020

Current Formula 2 and Williams reserve and test driver Nicholas Latifi has been tipped to drive for Williams in the 2020 Formula 1 season.

Current ROKiT Williams Racing driver Robert Kubica, who made a comeback to Formula 1 this season after suffering devastating injuries in a rally crash back in 2011, announced last month that he will not be returning to Williams for the 2020 season.

The Grove-based team have already confirmed that George Russell, the rookie teammate to the 34-year-old Pole, is set to return to the team next season, but they still have one seat to fill and are one of four of the sport’s 10 teams without a solidified driver lineup for next year.

Now current Formula 2 and Williams reserve and test driver Nicholas Latifi has been tipped to replace Kubica as the teammate to the 21-year-old Briton next season.

Latifi, the son of McLaren co-owner and billionaire Michael Latifi, has long been considered the leading candidate to replace Kubica next season, even since before Kubica announced that he would be leaving the team after the 2019 season concludes in early December with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit.

Nico Hulkenberg has been rumored as a possible candidate to drive for the team, but given their status as by far the slowest team on the grid with only one point through the first 17 races of the 21-race 2019 season, and a fluky point at that, it is believed that this particular option would not be all that attractive to the 32-year-old German, who is set to be replaced by Esteban Ocon at Renault next year.

Of the five remaining open seats on next year’s 20-driver grid, this second Williams seat was considered the one with the most uncertainty surrounding it, as confirmations for the other four are expected in the very near future.

Latifi is set to drive for Williams in first of three free practice sessions for each of the next three races on the 2019 schedule. These races are the Mexican Grand Prix at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas and the Brazilian Grand Prix at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.

The 24-year-old Canadian is set to replace Kubica in the free practice session for the Mexican Grand Prix and Russell in the other two. He already spent time test driving for the team in free practice sessions for the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard and the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps earlier this year.

Latifi needed to finish in the top five in the Formula 2 driver standings to secure enough superlicense points to be eligible to compete in Formula 1 next season.

With two races remaining in the 22-race season, the DAMS driver has clinched a top five result in the standings. He currently sits in second place with four victories and 194 points in 20 races. He sits 70 points ahead of sixth place driver Nobuharu Matsushita with a maximum of 40 points left on the table for each driver.

 

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Will Nicholas Latifi end up being named the replacement for Robert Kubica alongside George Russell for the 2020 Formula 1 season, or will that seat end up going to another driver? At this point, it is Latifi’s seat to lose.