Williams Formula 1 deputy chief Claire Williams says the team opted against confirming Nicholas Latifi in a race seat for 2020 in order to avoid distracting him from his Formula 2 title bid.

Latifi has worked with Williams in a development role throughout 2019, appearing in a number of Friday practice sessions, and was announced as George Russell’s teammate for 2020 on Thursday in Abu Dhabi.

The Canadian’s confirmation came as little surprise, but was reliant on him securing a top-five finish in F2 to gain the Super License points required to race in F1.

“We wanted to afford Nicholas the opportunity to continue the F2 campaign and focus on that rather than being distracted by any earlier kind of announcement,” Williams said.

“But it probably was an inevitability and one that we’re really delighted about, and we’re really looking forward to seeing how Nicholas does next year.

“He’s been a fantastic part of the team this year as our reserve driver. He’s done a number of FP1 sessions and test days. He’ll do the test next week for us as well. And I think he just has the right kind of personality as well that we’re looking for in our drivers at Williams.”

Robert Kubica announced in September that he would be leaving Williams at the end of the year, freeing up a seat, and while there were multiple drivers under consideration, Latifi always appeared to be the likely replacement.

“Probably as any other TP is going to be doing, they’re going to be talking to a handful of drivers and then whittling it down,” Williams said.

“Then obviously Nicholas stepping up next year was dependent on him achieving the Super License, so again another reason why the decision was only made at this point of the year to enable him to do that.

“You don’t want to sign a driver until they’ve actually got it, do you? That would be difficult!

“We’re looking forward to him closing out that second position in F2 this weekend as well.”

Latifi remained coy on when he found out he would be getting the seat, saying it was a gradual process leading to his contract being signed.

“I’m not sure I can say exactly when I was told, but it kind of happened, let’s say, some kind of steps,” Latifi said.

“There was a point where I was told that I was wanted to be the race driver for the team, but at this point I still didn’t have a contract signed, so this takes a little bit of time to go through, and obviously you wait for the official announcement day.

“But when I was first told, for me, it was, honestly I wasn’t expecting it when I was told in that moment.”

Additional reporting by Julianne Cerasoli.