It didn’t take long for the British team to announce its driving duo for the next season following the departure of George Russell to Mercedes
By Yuri Coghe
Canadian Nicholas Latifi won’t be leaving the Formula 1 grid anytime soon.
The 2019 Formula 2 runner-up has signed a one-year contract extension with Williams, the team has announced on Wednesday. The 26-year-old Montreal-born driver will be joined by former Red Bull man Alex Albon, signed as the replacement for Mercedes-bound George Russell.
“The news is out. I’ll continue to race for Williams in 2022 and honestly, I couldn’t be happier,” Latifi said in his blog.
“I’m excited about what’s to come; partly because of the new F1 car on the horizon, but also because the team is clearly moving in a more competitive direction in every key area. I think Williams really has all the ingredients in place to make further progress up the grid and I’m determined to keep playing my part during that journey.”
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Albon, who lost his Red Bull seat for the 2021 season to Sergio Perez, spent the year racing in DTM and serving as a development driver for Red Bull.
The 25-year-old Thai-British driver made his F1 debut in 2019 for Toro Rosso, a satellite team for Red Bull Racing. He replaced Pierre Gasly mid-season on the “A-team” after the Frenchman endured lacklustre results.
Albon achieved two podiums with the Austrian outfit the following year, finishing the 2020 season in seventh in the drivers’ standings with 105 points – a performance that Red Bull also found to be surplus to requirements, deciding to let him go.
Gasly, who went the other way around, sensationally won the 2020 Italian Grand Prix in Monza with AlphaTauri, the rebranded version of Toro Rosso.
“When you take a year out of F1 it’s never certain you will make a return so I’m extremely thankful to Red Bull and Williams for believing in me and helping me on my journey back to the grid,” said Albon in a press release.
“It’s also been great to see all the progress Williams have been making as a team this year and I look forward to helping them continue that journey in 2022. My focus now returns to my Test & Reserve Driver role at Red Bull and helping the team fight for this year’s world championship.”
“I also want to welcome my new teammate Alex Albon to Williams,” said Latifi. “We were last teammates in 2018 when we raced for DAMS in F2. Alex is a great guy and a good fit for the team. We’ve always got on well off track, but most importantly I know we’ll push each other on track.”
Latifi got back-to-back points finishes in Hungary and Belgium to score his first career Formula 1 points. He sits 16th in the drivers’ standings with seven points, helping Williams stay ahead of Haas and Alfa Romeo for eighth in the constructors’ standings.
Latifi, who was born in Montreal and raised in Toronto, also said he’s excited for the reset the new 2022 F1 cars are expected to trigger in the series.
“I’ve felt at home at Williams since the day I arrived, and this has been a big factor in my development as a driver. Race results are moving in the right direction, especially in the last few months when I’ve been able to get my first F1 points in the bag. My focus now is to continue on that trajectory, keep up the momentum and push for further improvements in 2022,” Latifi added.
“The introduction of next year’s new car feels like a fresh start for everybody. I feel privileged to be part of that change and I’ll be doing my best to make sure we capitalize on the opportunity.”
More on Latifi:
“The opportunity came and we took it,” celebrates Latifi after claiming career-high P7 in Hungaroring
Williams ‘headed in the right direction’, reflects Latifi after early Imola GP crash
Latifi knows how to impress, but 2021 will be the time to go full throttle
Williams team principal Jost Capito, who’s “extremely excited” by the team’s 2022 line-up, pointed out to Albon’s “multiple podium finishes” and “speed as a driver.’
“We are extremely excited by our new line-up, with both drivers bringing a great blend of youth and experience that will not only be a great fit for the team but also help us take the next step in our journey,” said Capito.
“Alex is one of the most exciting young talents in motorsport, yet comes with a large amount of F1 experience from his time at Red Bull. His multiple podium finishes highlight his speed as a driver, and we know he will immediately feel at home with the team at Grove,” he added.
“Nicholas (Latifi) meanwhile has consistently impressed us over the past three years with his hard work, diligence, and positive attitude. He has continued to develop throughout his time at Williams and has grown into an impressive F1 driver, as seen by his points-scoring finishes this season.”
Only one seat is still available
Williams’ 2022 driving duo announcement adds another piece to the puzzle when it coms to next season’s grid.
Only Alfa Romeo’s second seat is still up for grabs as Haas and Canadian-owned Aston Martin are expected to keep their current duos consisting of Mick Schumacher/Nikita Mazepin and Sebastian Vettel/Lance Stroll, respectively.
More driver deals:
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Ocon signs three-year extension with Alpine: “it’s a fantastic feeling to secure my future with the team”
Norris signs multi-year deal with McLaren: “I want to become a world champion with this team”
All other teams have officially announced their driving duos for the upcoming season.
Alfa Romeo is adding Valtteri Bottas to replace fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who’s retiring at the end of the season. Russell is headed to Mercedes to become Lewis Hamiton’s third teammate in the German outfit.
Dutch FE champion Nyck De Vries is rumoured to have signed for Alfa Romeo already to become Bottas’ teammate, which would leave Italian Antonio Giovinazzi without a seat for 2022.