Latifi: Gap between Russell and I not as big as it seemed

Finley Crebolder
George Russell and Nicholas Latifi at the 2022 car launch. Great Britain July 2021

Nicholas Latifi feels the gap in performance between himself and George Russell often looked bigger than it actually was. 

In their two years together as team-mates, Russell was comfortably faster than the Canadian on both Saturdays and Sundays the vast majority of the time.

The gap between the two of them seemed particularly big in qualifying with the Brit earning the nickname “Mr Saturday” for his excellent performances that often saw him beat a number of faster cars as well as the other Williams.

However, while Latifi says he’s one of the fastest around, he feels the difference between them was made to look bigger than it actually was, saying they were often close in Q1 but he’d be knocked out while the now-Mercedes driver would go through and improve.

“Before the summer break a steady growth started, both on the qualifying performance front and in race management,” he told the Italian branch of Motorsport.com.

“These are two completely different aspects, but each driver must be able to combine them very well in order to put together a good race weekend.

Sometimes in my situation it was frustrating to find myself out of Q2 by a very small margin, sometimes I was really close to George. Then of course he would improve his time in Q2, and at the end of the race his Q2 time would often be compared to my Q1 time, making it seem like a huge gap.

“But it always comforted me to know that the team had the picture of everything, and obviously I was very happy to see that before the summer break things improved, and continued in the right direction afterwards.

“I know I had one of the fastest drivers on the grid as a teammate, I think that will be even more clear to everyone next season.”

With him replacing Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes for 2022 and beyond, Russell’s next team-mate will be one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, Lewis Hamilton.

While he doesn’t think his own team-mate record and their’s can be directly compared, Latifi admits he’s curious to see how the seven-time World Champion will match up to 23-year-old.

“Well, I’ve seen that in Formula 1 it’s very common to compare drivers who have driven the same car. Even years later there are evaluations that are based precisely on the comparisons between two drivers when they were teammates,” he said.

 

“For example, I happened to hear that if [Daniel] Ricciardo in Red Bull held his own against [Max] Verstappen, seeing now how it goes in the comparison with [Lando] Norris then Lando would fight with Max.

But beyond those aspects, as I’ve had the opportunity to drive the same car as George and I know how my performance has progressed in the direct comparison with him, I’ll obviously be very interested to find out how he’s going to do and how he’s going to stack up against Lewis, the driver I consider the greatest or one of the greatest of all time in the sport.

“So yeah, it’s definitely something I’ll be following very closely.”

 

Russell a 'polished diamond' but can still improve

Jost Capito has called George Russell a polished diamond but says he is still not at his best.