Lat­ifi re­places Ku­bica at Wil­liams for 2020

The National - News - - ABU DHABI F1 SPORT -

Cana­dian Ni­cholas Lat­ifi said his dream had come true after Wil­liams an­nounced on Thurs­day he would be mak­ing his For­mula One de­but in 2020 as Robert Ku­bica’s re­place­ment.

The 24-year-old, who is sec­ond in the For­mula Two feeder se­ries with two races re­main­ing this week­end, is al­ready the Bri­tish team’s re­serve and has driven for them in six prac­tice ses­sions this sea­son.

“For me, it’s a dream come true and some­thing I’ve been work­ing to­wards for al­most half my life,” Lat­ifi said in a state­ment ahead of the sea­son-end­ing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“It still feels a bit sur­real. I don’t think it will sink in fully un­til I’m on the grid in Mel­bourne next year.”

Lat­ifi’s ap­point­ment along­side Mercedes-backed Bri­ton Ge­orge Rus­sell, who made his de­but this year, fills the last va­cant spot on the 2020 grid.

“Ni­cholas has be­come an es­tab­lished and well-re­spected mem­ber of Wil­liams,” deputy team prin­ci­pal Claire Wil­liams said.

“We look for­ward to him step­ping up into this new role as we look to fight our way back to the mid­field.”

For­mer world cham­pi­ons Wil­liams are cur­rently last in the over­all stand­ings.

Ku­bica, who made his For­mula One come­back this sea­son after a near-fa­tal rally crash in 2011, has scored the team’s only point.

The 34-year-old has been out­per­formed by Rus­sell, how­ever, and an­nounced in Septem­ber that he would be leav­ing the team.

He has been linked with a move to US-owned Haas in a re­serve or sim­u­la­tor driver role.

Lat­ifi, who can bring valu­able fund­ing to the team with his bil­lion­aire fa­ther al­ready hav­ing in­vested in McLaren, had been a lead­ing can­di­date to re­place Ku­bica.

“I can’t wait to take the next step for­ward as a full-time race driver,” he said.

“I don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the chal­lenge ahead, go­ing into F1 as a rookie, but I’m ex­tremely mo­ti­vated and de­ter­mined to give it my all.”

His con­fir­ma­tion means that Nico Hulken­berg, who is be­ing re­placed at Re­nault by French­man Es­te­ban Ocon for 2020, is now sure to leave the For­mula One grid after Sun­day’s race

New Wil­liams driver Ni­cholas Lat­ifi Reuters

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