Nicholas Latifi

A relative late convert to motor racing, Canadian Nicholas Latifi graduated through Europe’s junior categories until he finished as Formula 2 runner-up in 2019 to secure his graduation to Grand Prix racing. 

Family background and early racing career 

He is the son of Iranian-Canadian entrepreneur Michael Latifi who is Chairman and CEO of Markham-based Sofina Foods. Furthermore, Michael Latifi’s investment company Nidala BVI paid £203m to acquire a 10 per cent stake in the McLaren Group in July 2018. 

Nicholas Latifi was already a teenager when he first raced karts in 2009. He made his car racing debut when sharing Rehagen Racing’s Ford Mustang GT in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race that supported the 2012 Daytona 24 Hours. The balance of that season was spent competing in the Italian Formula 3 Championship, at first driving Dallara F308-FPT for reigning champions BVM. He switched to JD Motorsport’s Mygale M-10 for the third weekend in Mugello and showed improved form towards the end of the season – scoring four podium finishes that included victory in the third race at Vallelunga. 

Formula 3 with Carlin and Prema 

Having travelled to New Zealand to race in the Toyota Racing Series at the start of 2013, Latifi joined Carlin for that year’s European and British F3 championships. Overshadowed by team-mates that included Formula 1-bound Daniil Kvyat, Latifi scored a couple of fifth-place finishes in European rounds and was fifth overall in Great Britain. 

From the archive

He switched to Prema PowerTeam for the 2014 European F3 Championship. The opening weekend at Silverstone included qualifying and finishing second behind team-mate Esteban Ocon in race two. While the Frenchman eventually beat Max Verstappen to the title, Latifi did not finish on the podium again. Tenth in the European F3 standings, Latifi also raced in Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 during 2014. Hjoined Tech 1 Racing for the last three weekends of that year’s FR3.5 campaign and finished second at Jerez. Inconspicuous on his GP2 debut with Hilmer Motorsport in Abu Dhabi, he finished fifth in the Macau GP when reunited with his Prema Dallara F314-Mercedes-Benz. 

Continued Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 careers 

Latifi remained in the FR3.5 World Series in 2015 with Arden International. He scored eight top 10 finishes and led the early laps of the opening race at Spa-FrancorchampsA possible podium in race one at the Hungaroring was lost when he punctured a tyre following contact with Matthieu Vaxivière. Four race weekends as part of MP Motorsport’s GP2 line-up failed to yield a top 10 finish. 

Formula 1 with Renault, GP2 with DAMS 

Despite little outright success so far, Latifi was named as Renault’s test driver for 2016 – driving an old Lotus E20-Renault at Silverstone in MayHe joined DAMS for the 2016 GP2 season and spent four seasons with the French team as he eventually developed into a race winner. Again Latifi began the year with his best result of the season – second in Barcelona’s feature race – but he slumped to a disappointing 16th in the final standings. 

The GP2 Series was rebranded as FIA Formula 2 in 2017 and Latifi showed a welcome upturn in form. Having lost Barcelona’s sprint race by running wide with four laps to go and second at the Red Bull Ring, he then started Silverstone’s reverse-grid sprint race from pole position and led throughout to atone for Barcelona and score his breakthrough victory. Second in Hungary (feature race) and at Jerez (sprint), Latifi finished the 2017 F2 season in an much improved fifth overall. 

He also tested a contemporary F1 car for the first time when he completed 54 laps in a Renault RS17 during the Hungaroring rookie tests on 1 August 2017. 

Latifi continued with DAMS in 2018 as well as being named as Force India’s F1 reserve driver. He again converted a sprint race pole position into a lights-to-flag victory, this time at Spa-Francorchamps, and finished second in the feature event at Sochi. Those were the highlights of an inconsistent campaign as he struggled with the new Dallara F2 2018-Mecachrome and dropped to ninth in the standings. A disappointing F2 season ended in Abu Dhabi with Latifi fortunate to emerge without injury after he stalled at the start and was hit by Arjun Maini. Latifi also took on Friday test duties at five GPs as he planned his F1 graduation. 

F2 runner-up and F1 graduation 

With ambition undimmed, Latifi signed as Williams test and reserve driver in 2019 and drove the recalcitrant FW42 on Friday at six GPs. As important, he began his fourth full GP2/F2 campaign in fine form. He won a race during each of the opening three weekends to establish a commanding early points lead. A fourth victory followed in the feature race at the Hungaroring but he could not match ART Grand Prix’s Nyck de Vries as the season progressed. The Dutchman took the points lead in France and gradually pulled clear of runner-up Latifi. 

Williams announced Latifi as George Russell’s team-mate for the 2020 F1 World Championship on 28 November 2019. The Canadian earned three 11th place finishes across the season as his best results in an uncompetitive car. He was retained for the 2021 season alongside Russell.

F1 struggles and eventual departure

2021 was arguably Latifi’s best season in F1, but ended in a cloud of controversy. Despite back-to-back DNF’s in the first two races of the season, the Canadian was able to gradually find performance over the course of the season. His best drives came in Hungary and Belgium, where he was able to take advantage of strategy errors and wet weather to finish 7th and 9th respectively – the best results of his F1 career.

But Latifi’s most infamous moment came during the season finale in Abu Dhabi, losing control of his Williams with just four laps remaining. This would ultimately start a domino effect of events which, paired with an unprecedented safety car restart, would lead to Max Verstappen’s first world championship. As a consequence, Latifi received a large amount of hateful messages online and even had to hire security after being sent death threats.

New technical regulations in 2022 provided a fresh slate for struggling teams and drivers but both Latifi and Williams were unable to adapt to the change. Spending most of his season at the rear of the field, Latifi was unable to secure a top ten finish until the 18th race of the season, qualifying last but finishing 9th in Japan.

In an attempt to progress further up the grid, Williams decided to part ways with Latifi in the closing stages of the 2022 season, replacing him with former Formula E and F2 champion Nyck de Vries.

Non Championship Races