George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Silverstone, 2021

Russell enjoys third straight season on top at Williams before taking Hamilton on

2021 team mate battles: Russell vs Latifi

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There was a brief time, following the Hungarian Grand Prix, when it looked as though Nicholas Latifi might end the season ahead of George Russell in the points standings.

That might have seemed an injustice, as up to that point Russell had never been out-qualified by his Williams team mate. Not only over the season so far, but throughout all of 2020 as well.

That situation changed (in both respects) after the summer break. Russell bagged nine points in the non-race at Spa, and if any driver deserved the half-points they took that weekend, it was surely the one who claimed a massive reward for his exceptional run to second on the grid in his Williams.

Even without the eight-point swing between the Williams pair that day, Russell would have still ended the season ahead on points, thanks to a couple of places in the lower reaches of the top 10.

Nonetheless Latifi, who was thrown in at the deep end last year as the series’ only full-year rookie in a season badly disrupted by the pandemic, fared increasingly well against his team mate as the year went on. He even achieved a few wins over one of F1’s most impressive qualifiers – a far cry from last year, when he was regularly four tenths of a second or more off his pace. The trend was generally in the right direction as well, though Latifi couldn’t match Russell’s feats in the wet.

Nonetheless Russell was dependably the team’s lead driver. On the few occasions Latifi was classified ahead there was usually a reason, such as Russell’s gearbox problem in Baku or the combination of a sub-par start in Hungary followed by an early ‘double stacked’ pit stop, following which he recovered to end the race on his team mate’s tail.

The Mercedes-bound Russell therefore enjoyed one of the most emphatic victories by a driver over his team mate this year. That follows his even more decisive margin over Latifi last year and conclusive out-pacing of Robert Kubica during his debut campaign, though the latter beat Russell to Williams’ only point of 2019.

Russell will, of course, face a much tougher fight in the shape of Lewis Hamilton next year at Mercedes.

Back at Williams, the team has shown faith in Latifi by keeping him on alongside the incoming Alexander Albon. However team CEO Jost Capito did admit he was reluctant to change both drivers heading into a season of considerable disruption on the technical side.

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George Russell vs Nicholas Latifi: Key stats

George Russell vs Nicholas Latifi: Who finished ahead at each round


George Russell vs Nicholas Latifi: Qualifying gap

Times based on the last qualifying round at each race weekend in which both drivers set a time. Negative indicates George Russell was faster, positive means Nicholas Latifi was faster

In Russia Latifi set the quickest time when the pair went head-to-head in Q1, but did not set a time in Q2 due to his power unit penalty

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Russell enjoys third straight season on top at Williams before taking Hamilton on”

  1. As per the rules, the 1st race where Latifi out-qualified Russell is the Italian GP as Latifi won the sprint. But I guess we let that slide :)

    1. You clearly need your views… “clarified”. The FIA are happy to help you agree with them.

  2. The qualifying difference could be summed in a single number, which would make these brutal juxtapositions even more black and white. A simple average of qualifying deltas however won’t do, as it weighs heavier for long tracks.

    Instead one could ‘normalize’ the deltas by dividing them by the fastest driver quali-time of their respective tracks and calculate an average of that, resulting in a tiny unit-less number. This number in turn can be multiplied to a track time average, or a lap-time that is most representative of F1 tracks, like Spain used to be.

    Scientists and Engineers dealing with logarithmic scales have to normalize their data, before it can be plotted in a log graph or plugged into a log-equation. So normalization is quite common, whether it is is used formally to remove units (dividing by 1 [unit]), or to fit data into a standard measuring scale, like I’m suggesting.

    Love these comparisons, thank you!

  3. Great talent but latifi grew during the season while George dropped after spa and the signing of the Mercedes contract.
    Very curious how he will perform compared with lewis.
    His starts need a lot of attention as it is one of his weakest talents..

    1. Not sure if Russell really dropped a lot as it coincided with the car not being there much, but broadly agreed, Latifi had a good season.

      indeed one hopes Mercedes sets Russell to a lot of start practice so he doesn’t emulate Bottas bad look a season of many sliding back starts.

      1. If we can agree that Spa was a fluke, and not count those points into the final tally, then the two drivers are even on points. And I think that highlights the one problem with Russell: his inability to score as much as it appears he should.

        1. I think it is a bit harsh to imply that he wouldn’t have got any points in Spa though. Latifi managed to hold onto points in Hungary when he was running near the front at one point, and I think Russell would certainly be in the lower end of the top 10. All this said, I expect most peoples rankings to have them 10 or more places apart, which I don’t think is right. Their qualifying gap has decreased and Russell really did look to start dropping back near the end of this season. Unless people think Latifi is improving, the fact he’s beaten him on merit in qualifying a few times now surely would rank him down a few places.

          1. I think it is a bit harsh to imply that he wouldn’t have got any points in Spa though

            its always risky to “what if”. But passing in Spa is easy for cars with better speed and downforce.
            There are several cars/driver combos who are rated higher so a place in the first 10 would have been a great succes.

          2. I actually do think that Latifi shows exactly how much of a disadvantage the disrupted season last year was for a rookie @thegianthogweed and he did start to improve more and more from about 1/3rd into the season ending with a really positive run of solid pace.

            I do think Russel might have dwindled a tad after the highs of the mid season, but then the car probably also lost pace relative to some of the other cars around it, or just was not that well suited to some tracks.

            For Russel not finishing on such a high might be a bit of a blessing though (and yes, he does need first lap simulations to not get swarmed anymore) because expectations of him might be somewhat lower than if he had been on that kind of form for the last races.

  4. Racing Incident
    22nd December 2021, 17:57

    Now I predict Latifi won’t be there in 2023 and goes off to [probably] sportscars.

  5. can’t wait to see Russell in a great car the whole time. I think 2022 is going to be a VER and RUS championship battle! Come on 2022

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