Williams boss Jost Capito believes Nicholas Latifi’s performances against George Russell in 2021 have been better than they look.
Much of the focus has been on Russell ever since he stepped in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020, with the Briton proving his credentials in Mercedes machinery.
From that race weekend on the calls grew louder for Russell to take the place of Valtteri Bottas, and finally that decision has been made, confirming him as a Mercedes driver for 2022.
Lost in all of the distractions though has been Nicholas Latifi, who now over a season and a half into his time at Williams, is operating at the highest level of his career.
The Canadian racer has scored points in two of his last four races, while his qualifying form has also steadily improved.
It has been enough to earn Latifi a new deal for 2022, with Capito pleased about Latifi’s performance level compared to a future Mercedes driver in Russell.
“When you see in qualifying, Nicky was missing four hundredths of a second [to Russell],” Capito is quoted by F1i.com.
“You can’t say we have a huge gap between George and Nicky in quali, and in the racing as well, when you look at Hungary at the race Nicky did a fantastic job.
“I don’t think the gap is as big as everybody believes or it looks.
“He had a couple of issues in quali this season, Nicky, that were not caused by him and he would have been in a position to be nearly at the speed or at the speed of George.”
Hungary was without doubt Latifi’s strongest showing in Formula 1, running as high as P3 at one stage before crossing the line P7.
And Russell fully backs Williams’ decision to award Latifi a new deal with the team.
“He’s really getting stronger and stronger week-in, week-out, finding a lot of confidence and he’s really doing a good job,” said Russell.
“He retained his seat on absolute merit this year, so I’ve got a lot of respect for how he’s working and going about his business and how he’s trying to improve.
“As I said he is truly doing a very, very good job.”