Nicholas Latifi's 2022 season could not have started in a worse fashion. The Williams driver has seen his teammate score his first point of the season for the team while he came home in a lowly 16th position. A new teammate in Alex Albon was supposed to allow Latifi to grow and become a team leader at Williams. After the first three races of the season, however, Latifi might just be looking at a path that leads to his exit from F1.
Alex Albon has been exposing the Canadian driver
When Alex Albon was signed by Williams, it was supposed to be an opportunity for Nicholas Latifi to get out of the shadow of George Russell as the team leader. During his partnership with Russell, Latifi was more or less dominated in both qualifying and the race. Albon's entry into the team did not bring with it a similar reputation as Russell's. The Thai-British driver had a good junior career but it didn't have the championship triumphs that Russell had. Moreover, Albon had a disappointing stint at Red Bull against Max Verstappen as well.
Albon is considered a good driver but not a future star, a tag that has stuck with Russell ever since he made his debut in F1. In every qualifying session and at every race, however, Albon has done nothing but dominate Latifi. The gap remains similar to what Russell used to have against the Canadian when they were teammates.
This huge gulf has forced a rethink on where Latifi needs to be placed on the grid, which, at the moment, is not too favorable.
Nicholas Latifi's crash-ridden nature is starting to hurt the team
It's three races in a row now where Nicholas Latiifi has been involved in crashes causing excessive damage to the car. The first was in the Bahrain GP, followed by two in Saudi Arabia. The Australian GP then saw the crash in qualifying involving both Lance Stroll and Latifi.
Williams is not as cash-rich as it used to be in its heydays. While Latifi is part of the team as a pay driver, there comes a point where any team would be looking at the risk-vs-reward of having a Nicholas Latifi in the team. The amount of damage he has caused is not favorable for any team, especially with the introduction of cost-caps and limited wind tunnel times. The way Latifi's performances are stacking up, it's showing a worrying pattern for the Canadian.
The gap to George Russell was overtly attributed to the British driver
This season has somewhat exposed where Nicholas Latifi stands as a driver on the F1 grid. He used to suffer a deficit of half a second or more when he had George Russell as his teammate. Since Russell was considered this phenom behind the wheel with the potential to be a star, Latifi's deficit would usually get slipped under the rug.
As it turns out, even if we swap Russell with Albon, Latifi is suffering from a similar deficit. A deficit that would, in this rather congested grid, lead to Latifi's gulf to his teammate getting rather exposed.
The way Williams is placed right now, it is a team in transition at the moment. There are changes taking place in the background and the team might even be keeping an eye on how it approaches the pay driver situation.
Having a pay driver is not a bad thing, but if he can't even sustain a basic level of performance then that should be a concern. Right now, Nicholas Latifi is bordering on below-par levels of performance and if this carries on then the exit door from Williams might be closer than he thinks.
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