Williams F1: Will New Canadian Driver, Commercial Partner Spark Revival of Struggling Race Team?


As it prepares for the start of the 2020 Formula One season, the Williams racing team is looking to Canada for both technical prowess and financial stability. Just six weeks after signing Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi for the new F1 season, Williams announced a wide-ranging partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada. During the 2020 season, RBC’s logo will feature prominently on the nose of the F1 car, as well as on teamwear and the drivers’ race suits.

The move represents a positive step forward for the UK race team after the loss of four prominent sponsors during this off-season. In addition to RBC, Williams also added Italian coffee brand Lavazza and Sofina Foods, a Canadian packaged goods company founded by Nicholas Latifi’s billionaire father, Michael.

It has been reported that the younger Latifi brings with him an estimated €30M of annual backing, an injection of cash sorely needed by the once heralded race team which has struggled to stay among the challengers in F1 the past few seasons.

In addition to the much desired funding, the 24-year-old Latifi also brings a championship calibre pedigree, after winning four races and reaching eight podiums on the F2 circuit in 2019, to place second overall in the drivers’ standings. As a reserve driver for Williams last season, the Montreal-born Latifi is already familiar with the team and its equipment, having tested cars and participated in practice sessions on race weekends. Latifi joins incumbent British driver George Russell at the new look team on the 2020 F1 starting grid.

Formed in 1977 by team owner Frank Williams and chief engineer Patrick Head, Williams was immediately competitive and won its first race on the F1 circuit at the 1979 British Grand Prix. Williams won a record nine constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ championships between 1980 and 1997, boasting some of the sport’s elite drivers, including Finland’s Keke Rosberg, France’s Alain Prost and Brazil’s Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. At the 1997 British GP, Canadian Jacques Villeneuve scored the team’s 100th race victory.

After that season, however, Williams struggled to maintain its dominance in F1, losing major sponsors and frequently changing engine suppliers along the way. At its lowest point, in 2018, Williams scored only 7 points and finished dead last in the Constructors’ standings.

There are renewed hopes, however, that the team is on the rebound and ready to consistently challenge once again for podium places and racing titles. With a long term engine supplier partnership in place with Mercedes until 2025; with established brands and respected, new global commercial partners on board; and with two promising young drivers in the fold, Williams is looking towards the 2020 season as an opportunity to set the groundwork for a renewed attempt at recapturing some of the glory from its early history in Formula One. A revered Canadian financial institution and a rising Canadian star at the wheel are likely to play prominent roles in that quest.

Photo Courtesy: Williamsf1.com


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