Is time running out for F1’s underperforming billionaire boys?

Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi will get to race on home soil this weekend as F1 returns to Canada for the first time since 2019. After difficult starts to their respective campaigns, how long do the sons of billionaires have left to prove themselves?
Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing.
Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing.

Latifi will race in front of his home crowd at Canada F1’s venue - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - for the first time in his career but it might be his last.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Canadian GP was cancelled in the last two years meaning it’s the first race in Montreal since 2019. 

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Latifi’s future with Williams beyond 2022 is very uncertain with several reports linking reigning F2 champion Oscar Piastri with the Grove-based outfit, even as early as next month’s British Grand Prix.

Despite his significant financial contribution to the team - his father, Michael Latifi, is the owner, chairman and CEO of Canadian food company Sofina Foods Inc, with a reported net worth of over £2.0bn, the writing is on the wall for Latifi as he’s failed to make the step up in the wake of George Russell’s departure from the team.

While it was clear that Russell had a significant performance advantage over Latifi during their two seasons together, the Canadian performed solidly, particularly on race day in the second half of 2021.

Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing
Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing

He scored Williams’ first points - out-racing Russell - at the Hungarian Grand Prix and then was unfortunate to miss out on another top 10 finish in Italy due to an untimely Virtual Safety Car.

Unfortunately for Latifi, his error at the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix handed Max Verstappen the title, but let’s not get into that.

Latifi would have a new teammate in the form of Alex Albon, who spent the last year on the sidelines after being dropped by Red Bull.

Even despite Albon’s lack of experience in the team, he quickly ascended to being Williams’ lead driver with a run of outstanding performance, including top 10 finishes in Australia and Miami.

As Albon flourishes, Latifi has struggled considerably, taking a step back relative to 2021.

Alexander Albon (THA) Williams Racing FW44. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street
Alexander Albon (THA) Williams Racing FW44. Formula 1 World Championship,…

He crashed twice during the Jeddah weekend before being involved in an avoidable collision with fellow countryman, Stroll.

Latifi has still yet to out-qualify Albon this year, while he has defeated the Thai driver just once (Spain) on race day.

What has gone for Latifi wrong in F1 2022?

The Williams is a tricky car to drive with the FW44 having the least downforce of any car on the grid.

A lack of confidence due to a lack of downforce is to blame, according to Williams’ Dave Robson.

"Generally, I think still he is just still lacking a bit of confidence and just tuning the set-up to the tyres at each circuit to give him the confidence he needs," Robson said during the Monaco GP weekend.

"I think ultimately in qualifying, he just didn't quite get the confidence to get enough front wing, so enough aero balance in the car. So I think that was probably what happened here."

Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing FW44. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street
Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing FW44. Formula 1 World Championship,…

Ultimately, without a significant turnaround in performance in the upcoming grands prix, Latifi’s F1 career looks unsalvageable with Piastri waiting in the wings for 2023.

Canada’s other F1 contender’s future does look more secure, although that’s not totally down to performance.

Lawrence Stroll’s tough decision

Multiple podium finishes and one F1 pole position to his name - Stroll’s CV on paper is a respectable one. 

With his billionaire father Lawrence Stroll owning the Aston Martin team, Lance’s future with the team is effectively secure. 

His net worth is $2.9bn (£2.4bn), making his money in the fashion industry before taking over Aston Martin in 2020.

Lance Stroll (CDN) Aston Martin F1 Team. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit,
Lance Stroll (CDN) Aston Martin F1 Team. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd…

In a similar fashion to Latifi, Stroll has regressed compared to last year with the gap between himself and four-time champion teammate Sebastian Vettel only widening.

Vettel won the qualifying battle 14-8 in 2021; 12-10 in Stroll’s favour on race day though.

Compared to this year, it’s 5-1 over one lap; 4-2 on race day - both in Vettel’s favour.

Since the introduction of Aston Martin’s Red Bull-like upgrade package in Spain, Vettel has established himself as a regular points scorer with back-to-back top 10 finishes in Monaco and Baku.

On the other hand, Stroll has endured two torrid weekends with back-to-back Q1 exits.

His Baku weekend was borderline amateur, with Stroll crashing twice in two laps as he qualified 19th. 

Even despite his wavering performances, it’s unlikely his position within the team is under any threat.

Lance Stroll (CDN) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR22. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park,
Lance Stroll (CDN) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR22. Formula 1 World…

Sergio Perez got the chop at the end of 2020 at Vettel’s expense, while reports over the last few months - before Vettel’s revival - linked Fernando Alonso with the German’s seat, rather than Stroll’s.

If Stroll senior has serious ambitions of taking the team to glory in the near future, then replacing Stroll should be a top priority, particularly if his poor form continues. 

With Pierre Gasly likely available at the end of the year, a Vettel-Gasly line-up would be formidable.

F1’s return to Canada should be an exciting one with the iconic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve providing great action over the years.

Unfortunately for the natives, neither of their local stars will likely have a homecoming to celebrate. 

Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing FW43B and Lance Stroll (CDN) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR21 battle for
Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing FW43B and Lance Stroll (CDN) Aston…

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