George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, Williams, 2020

Russell wary of Latifi’s potential: “On paper he’s a rookie but in reality he’s not”

2020 F1 season

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George Russell says he is not underestimating the challenge from his new team mate, Nicholas Latifi, who he called “the most-prepared rookie Formula 1 has had ever” during the first week of testing.

[f1tv2020testa]Latifi has already driven F1 machinery for several teams, Russell pointed out. “He’s driven a Force India, he’s driven Williams, he’s driven a Mercedes, he’s driven a Renault. He’s been testing for three or four years now in Formula 1.

“So on paper he’s a rookie but the reality is he’s not. He’s definitely going to be tough to beat so I’m ready for the challenge and looking forward to the battle.”

In his first season of Formula 1 last year Russell dominated his experienced team mate Robert Kubica. Russell out-qualified him every weekend and only finished behind Kubica in two races.

However Russell says he needs to prove himself again in his second year. “That was in the past, you move on, and you’re only as good as your last race. So it is a fresh start.”

Latifi arrives in Formula 1 having finished second in Formula 2 last year in his fourth season in the category (previously known as GP2). Russell won the F2 title at his first attempt in 2018, but says people shouldn’t underestimate his new team mate.

“I think Nicholas is definitely very underrated and incredibly prepared and he’s going to be a tough driver to beat,” said Russell. “He’s going to keep me on my toes and I’ll be pushing.”

However Russell stressed his priority this year is to help return Williams to a competitive position following their poor 2019 campaign.

“I’m not going into this season thinking I’m the most experienced and I need to lead the team,” he said. “I’m going about my business the same as I’ve always done which is always give constructive criticism, try and motivate the team when needed, but also be to the point when it needs to be as well.”

Latifi said his F1 test mileage has made him “well-prepared” for his F1 debut. “But at the same time I think you can never underestimate the challenge of still being a rookie at Formula 1,” he added. “Because [there’s] things that you cannot replicate in those test days as I’m sure any current driver on the grid would say they experienced in their first year.”

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16 comments on “Russell wary of Latifi’s potential: “On paper he’s a rookie but in reality he’s not””

  1. Teammates in real team sports usually means you should be (mostly) glad when a valuable new player comes to your team. It means that you can grow and win as a team. Not in F1, obviosuly, where you’re biggest adversary is actually your teammate.

    As for Russel’s statement, the kid didn’t need long to catch up to F1’s politics and PR: talk up your rival so when you beat him, you look better.

    1. Or when he beats you, you look less bad. Not gonna happen in this case, but it’s a remarkable feature of F1 that it is always advantageous to talk up your biggest rival.

      1. This competition to be as scared or as underwhelming as possible is silly. It’s actually one of the things I like least about F1. Obviously overconfidence is too but there’s no need to be embarassingly deferential in such a competitive sport.

      2. Most drivers do that, yeah. I liked how Maldonado, I believe in 2012, praised his Williams, saying it’s so fast ‘even Bruno’ Senna made Q3.

  2. I thought the most prepared rookie title belonged to Stroll.

  3. Being honest, I’ll be shocked if Latifi outqualifies or beats Russell at any race. Latifi’s arguably got more to gain by beating Russell than Russell has of beating Latifi – everyone expects there to be little contest. So Russell ‘hyping’ Latifi up a little isn’t surprising. It’ll be interesting to see if Williams can close up to the field and fight other cars, rather than just each other.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      23rd February 2020, 12:42

      it is very rare that we have a season that a team mate never gets outqualified. Although it did happen with Alonso and Vandoorne and the willaims team mates last year. I expect latifi will out qualify Russell every now and then, just not often at all. Kubica occasionally was close and I don’t expect Latifi to be as bad as kubica.

  4. The most prepared rookie by far was Hamilton! McLaren gave him everything on a plate!

    1. @Charles Don’t forget that it was also back in the days of unlimited testing.

    2. Hamilton didn’t get on track race weekend testing like Vettel did on Fridays. Vettel was even given a race(2007 usgp) when Kubica crashed out of the 2007 Canadian gp. Then he had 7 race weekends in the STR before being his “rookie” season in 2008.

      1. Nah, Hamilton was prepared enough to be champion in rookie season. A top car, and over 20,000km in that car before first race. Russell must be trying to play mind games, because it is a bizarre thing to say.

    3. Ambrogio Isgro
      23rd February 2020, 15:02

      I remember also Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill or JP Montoya were quote prepared. But that was another era.

  5. “…….. and your only as good as your last race”. Donald Bradman anyone? Wisdom has it’s way of laughing at us.

    1. @stash Don’t you mean ‘Wisden’?

      I shall show myself out.

  6. When has he driven a Mercedes, though?

  7. lets see how fast colgate is this year i very much doubt there will be any points on offer for them this year aswell.

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