Nicholas Latifi reckons the realisation of his Williams Formula 1 deal will not fully sink in until he makes his debut at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old Canadian will make his grand prix racing bow with Williams in Melbourne after taking Robert Kubica’s vacated seat after the Pole opted to leave the team following a difficult comeback season.

Having finished runner-up in last year’s Formula 2 Championship, Latifi will step up to F1 and partner former F2 rival George Russell at the British squad, which finished last in the 2019 championship standings.

“I don’t think my reaction was very expressive let’s say, just because internally I was really, really surprised - but for me it’s a dream come true,” Latifi explained.

“I’ve been racing for almost half my life now, and it’s something that I’ve been working towards for a long time. To have it be real now, it’s finally happened, it’s a bit of a surreal feeling.

“Each one of those steps when I was told it was going to happen and the announcement, it’s bit by bit been building,” he added.

“Honestly I still think up until Melbourne when the lights go out on the grid that I’ll probably be the last to go OK now it’s happened, now it’s done. I’m super excited, super motivated and can’t wait to get started.”

Latifi, who made six FP1 outings for Williams across the 2019 season, began karting later than most of his peers and spent three years in F2 before earning his F1 graduation. Latifi feels his longer-than-usual route to F1 will serve him well during his rookie campaign.

“I think if I had gone into Formula 2 two or three years ago, I wouldn’t have felt as ready and prepared as I do now,” Latifi said.

"A lot of people don’t realise that I started racing quite late in terms of karting, so my motorsport age, I only started racing karts at 13 years old, compared to guys like, in extreme cases, [Max] Verstappen, Esteban [Ocon], I think they both had a kart at four years old.

“When you take that into consideration from when I started to when I’m in F1, it’s about 12 years. It’s the same for a guy like Max, 17 years old, 13 years from when he started driver. It’s about right, let’s say.

“Compared to the more recent rookies, I’m definitely on the older side, but in terms of my experience level in motorsport, I think it’s right for me.

“I feel the most prepared and ready that I’ve ever been, and ready to make the step up.”