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Insight: Force India F1 looks to future with signing of Nicholas Latifi
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Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Jan 2018   |  3:56 pm GMT  |  66 comments

Force India has made an interesting move in signing Nicholas Latifi as its test and reserve driver for F1 this season. The 22 year old Canadian will support the simulator programme and drive during a number of Friday practice sessions next year.

Force India brought on Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg in this way.

The Force India team is the poster boy of F1 midfield teams; consistently able to punch above its budget weight in the F1 series, beating manufacturer backed teams like Renault and McLaren Honda last year as well as fellow Mercedes engined customer Williams.

Last season the team finished fourth in the constructors’ championship, but is facing up to some new realities for 2018 and beyond. One is the likelihood of slipping behind Renault and its new customer McLaren and another is the economic reality.

The team has managed brilliantly despite the headwinds of F1’s financial climate, which rewards the top teams with generous bonuses – $100m in Ferrari’s case – but not the midfield teams. The team receives in the region of $72m a year from F1, compared to $180m for Ferrari and $97m for McLaren. Then it has sponsorship and shareholder funding to add to that to make its budget of around $120m.

Main shareholder Vijay Mallya clearly has his hands full in the courts at the moment and the relationship with drinks brand Diageo is complicated, so the signing of Latifi is clearly a tactical move by the team.

It receives around $12m a year from the backers of Sergio Perez and some small offset from Mercedes for running Esteban Ocon. They provided wonderful entertainment last season and are likely to do so again in 2018, but Force India must also look beyond that and in Latifi they have a young driver who has competed at the front in GP2 and won a race last year in F2 and who has similar levels of backing to Lance Stroll at Williams.

As Liberty Media gets down to the serious business of reshaping the commercial relationships between the sport and its teams from 2021 onwards, we are starting to see teams in the midfield making these tactical plays to ensure survival in the belief that the new deal after 2020 will level the playing field a little more for them.

Williams is set to announce Sergey Sirotkin soon as its second driver alongside Stroll. Sirotkin brings an estimated $30m over two years, which will take Williams to the end of 2019.

Latifi will contribute a more modest sum as a test and reserve driver, but if that becomes a race seat in 2019 it is likely to be in a similar bracket. Mallya in his quote announcing the deal said, “Nicholas will learn a huge amount as he gets embedded in the team, and looks forward to a career in Formula One.”

This very specific wording suggests that this is the first step in a longer collaboration.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” said Latifi. “Sahara Force India is a team that has shown constant improvement for the last few years and I’m proud to become a part of one of the success stories of Formula One. I am eager to show the team what I can do and help them as they continue to close the gap to the front of the grid.”


Force India gave young British hopeful George Russell some test and practice outings last year and is hopeful of maintaining its relationship with the Mercedes protege, who will race in F2 this season.

But clearly there is a time for pragmatism.

What do you make of this development? Have you seen Latifi race in F2 last season? Leave your comments in the section below

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1

Money talks louder than talent. That’s the lesson.

2

Up ’til last year, I wasn’t convinced Latifi’s trajectory was going to take him to F1. He was solid and improving, but probably not fast enough to mark him out as a talent at that level. That changed in 2017, when he did pretty well against Oliver Rowland in F2 and impressed on several occasions.

Russell still looks like the better prospect, but it certainly looks like Latifi could do a job. And he may well have to: I’d put money on Esteban Ocon being at Mercedes in 2019.

The question is, why would you look beyond Russell? It could be they want to take a step back and be a little less beholden to Mercedes. That makes a degree of sense with a new engine spec and new providers on the horizon, but this seems a year or two too early. I suspect they’re waiting to see how Russell handles a full season of F2. If George impresses, he could leapfrog Latifi to fill Ocon’s seat and if he takes some time to get up to speed, they have a workable insurance policy in Latifi.

3

I’d say Latifi was well beaten by Rowland. The points table says he wasn’t too far behind, but my impression from watching the races (and being a Rowland fan, if I’m honest) was that Rowland was the only driver who could even get close to Leclerc. I’m not sure Latifi is quite good enough to deserve an F1 drive, and given that he doesn’t yet have enough points for a superlicense I might be proved right!

4

Rowland had a couple of DQs, which makes it look closer than their performance would suggest. I thought Latifi did well to visit the podium regularly in what was a very competitive year. He’s a long way from deserving a drive in F1, but in my mind he’s become someone who could potentially drive in F1, when I didn’t think he had it in him before 2017. Like you say, his 5th place in F2 will give him a grand total of 2 superlicence points, so he’s a long, long way from actually being able to step up.

5

every team should be paid equally, regardless of results.

6
Cédric Baumgartner

So Williams is going for the $$ with Sirotkin instead of Kubica then? That’s a real shame! If Williams didn’t need the 30millions would they still pick Sirotkin or would Kubica get a 2nd chance?

7
Ricciardo Aficionado

Yah great, another pay driver. Though mind you Stroll was pretty awesome last year so maybe it’s a great tactical move. Speaking of Williams.. FI remind me of them a couple years back. They were punching above their weight, third in the championship… How things change. But some things remain the same. Williams had that position because A: they ran a Merc engine. And B: everyone they beat were performing pretty poorly at the time. Then things change. Ferrari/RedBull got better and look at Willy now. Getting beat by FI.
McLaren and Renault will be beating FI next year. Those two teams NEED to get better. Expect prize money to go down for FI next year so Latife is a good option. Is he quicker than Russell??

8

Quicker than George? Not in this life!

9
Ricciardo Aficionado

Yeah that’s what I thought. So I guess money is more responsible for making the car go faster than the driver.
He’s only a reserve driver anyway. Funny the other two names mentioned (diresta etc…) are kind of nowhere now. I ‘spose they’ll take Lafites money and he’ll get one or two practice drives at Montreal and Baku. Hope he can brake well.
I would be bothered by money winning out over talent here but it’s not exactly playing for sheep stations is it? Doesn’t matter who’s in that car, they’re not going to affect the championship. Which is a shame. F1 needs about six or seven teams going for the win. I think Merc should pull out from their works team and just supply engines. That would encourage them to share the performance around.

10

Have they come up with a new name yet? Can I suggest ‘Force Ten from Silverstone’….

11

That’s brilliant!

12

Sounds like he’s a solid pay-driver, like Lance Stroll has turned out to be despite low expectations. I think Pedro Diniz has been the best pay driver since I began following F1 in 1995.

13

Sergio Perez, surely? Diniz was, I think, the first pay driver to show that pay drivers could actually be steady and useful, rather than no-hopers in the Lavaggi, Deletraz, Inoue mould.

14

I remember Diniz being thoroughly mediocre, until the circus arrived at the big driver test of Soa, where he always went well!

15

Spa, not Soa!

16

Just a thought: While not strictly a “pay” driver, Sergio Perez must be the best “pay” driver – he entered with heavy backing from Mexican Sponsors and his backers have followed him along the way?

It is sad that Williams have now resorted to hiring 2 big pay drivers – not sure it will work out as car development may lack and the resulting lack of results will hurt them financially – not to mention as few chassis being banged along the way. Lance Stroll is not terrible, and in fact did a bit better than I expected in 2017, but he has shown nothing to suggest he is a winner in the making. Could this situation be a waste of a potentially good car being produced by Williams?

17

I expect Sirotkin to beat Stroll, if he gets the seat. His results are strong and he has a level of insight and maturity beyond his years. He’s ready for F1 in a way Lance simply wasn’t.

18

Just saw an ad in the paper:

Have money?
Know how to drive?
Have money?
We want you! 😀

I know there have always been pay drivers in F1 and the smaller teams are only doing what they have to to survive, but it’s still a sad state of affairs 😐

19
Clarks4WheelDrift

Good luck to him alongside others including $$$troll, $iroputin… a team giving both their cars to big pay drivers show it is beyond time to deal with the cost distribution and cost of competing in F1.

Sorry Ayrton, sorry Alain, sorry Nigel, sorry Nelson, your wallets are too small for F1, try CART instead…

While congratulating Force India on beating Williams, we should also be careful of protraying them as amazing underdogs punching well above their weight whilst we are in Formula PU. Makes it a lot easier for them to beat the Honda and Renault PUs plus get a few more Merc assisted parts like gearbox integration and updates.

20

Clarkes, it’s a shame to see Williams going with two pay drivers, (if they go for Sirotkin), but the reality is there are plenty of drivers on the grid who were hired on talent alone, there were plenty of pay drivers giing up against the drivers you mentioned.

21

Sirotkin is handy and I think he’ll surprise a lot of people if he does indeed get the Williams drive. Bear in mind he only finished behind four drivers in GP2 – Gasly, Giovinazzi, Vandoorne and (er) Rossi, all of whom were in quicker teams. If he wasn’t killing Kubica’s comeback dreams, I doubt he’d be attracting much criticism at all.

The jury is very much out on Lance Stroll, though. While he’s not just a rich kid heavy on cash and light on talent, he’s an awfully long way from being the finished article. His pace in F3 was undeniable, but he still looks uncomfortable both with and in an F1 car.

I thought he’d got it together from Monza onwards, but he was all at sea in the last two Grands Prix. If he manages to cut out weekends like that in 2018 (and it’s possible – he hadn’t raced at a number of these tracks) then he might have a long-term future in F1. If he doesn’t, then it’s only a matter of time before Daddy’s money comes at too high a price. Williams are in the most intense midfield battle I can recall and they need both cars scoring points.

22

Sirotkin was mooted for a Sauber seat a few years ago (I think it was when Koybayashi lost his seat…) and didn’t make the grade for whatever reason, either funding or talent. I want to believe he’ll surprise people but I’m sceptical, and with Stroll as a rather eclectic benchmark we’ll not really be sure how well either of them are doing.

23

The Sauber deal was a bit of a publicity stunt to get a Russian driver participating in the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. He was very young at that point and only had one full season of FR3.5 behind him. I think now he’s had a couple of strong years in GP2 and a couple of years with Renault, he’s in a much better position. Has to be this season or next, though, or it isn’t going to happen.

24

I think the only one on your list that fits the scenario you have described is Nigel Mansell who was a humble engineer and largely funded his own early racing career through sheer hard graft. The others, especially Senna, came from moneyed backgrounds. I was astonished to learn that Senna’s net worth at the time of his death was almost half a billion £’s, most of which was donated to charity, before his untimely end. Truly a great man.

25
Tornillo Amarillo

Still, there are young stars like Max, Ocon, Sainz, Leclerc, Norris in F1, and others not so young like Ric, Hulk, Perez. And also Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso.
So half of the grid.

26

Well if I were to trust any team with thei driver choice, Force India is number one on my list. Their track record shows they choose quality drivers, in some cases drivers capable of fighting for the championship (Perez, Ocon, Hulk) given the right car. So if Bottas has another 2017 type performance this season and Ocon moves to Mercedes, Latifi might be the surprise package in 2019.

In regards to the budget distribution matter, I see James Allen pointing out the $100m to Ferrari in every opportunity. I am also against the unfair fund distribution in F1. I’d like to see Ferrari and the other top teams getting paid for their performance rather than name. However, I’m not sure if JA ever analyzed how much money Ferrari injects in F1 or analyze Ferrari’s commercial value in F1. JA, care to consider? I read a new interview from Ecclestone recently where he said and I quote, “Ferrari doesn’t need F1 to survive. But it cannot be said vise versa.” I’m not a big Ecclestone fan, but he also mentioned Ferrari paid for F1 for many years and they expect the returns. It was an interesting reading. My point is money distribution in F1 is the biggest talking point. There’s more to the big team’s brand payout than what British media reports. It would be nice if the British media is not as partisan about this topic.

27

quality drivers – Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta……..

28

Better than Stoll, Maldonado, Harianto any day.

29

That’s an interesting point. Force India are often praised, but not usually for their wisdom in driver selection. Not once have they picked a duff budgie. Liuzzi wasn’t a terribly exciting choice and they made a mistake bringing back Adrian Sutil, but they’ve always got a good bang for buck. When they’ve taken pay drivers, they’ve always gone for the upper end of the market – handy drivers who happen to bring a bit of coin (quite a lot of coin, in Perez’s case). They’ve also made great use of their connection to Mercedes, blooding useful talent in return for a discount on the best engines on the grid.

30

For sure Kenny. Look at Williams on the other hand. They get paid loads more than Force India for being a historic team. And what have they done with drivers? Chose Maldonado and Stroll!!! I was reading a column earlier with a headline, “Williams sold their sole to the Stroll family”. It’s impossible to disagree with that. Force India on the other hand have had 2 high achieving drivers for the past 4 years in a row. They not only produced excellent cars, but also chose drivers that can get 100% out of their package.

31

The Ferrari name was recently rated as the most valuable in the world and the association it has with F1 must add to F1. So far I agree with you but how much of that Ferrari value comes from the F1 exposure?
As to the Bernie statement. I think Ferrari was more important to him in breaking the FOTA challenge and he is not now going to say he paid over the odds is he.
It would be intersting if the EU investigated this as anti competative. That would put partisan ( your words) pro brexit anti EU press in a real quandary.

32
Ricciardo Aficionado

I don’t think F1 is the basis of Ferrari’s prestige. I for one had heard of Ferrari long before I knew anything of F1. When I was four or five my older brother had an F50 poster on his wall.
The brand that Ferrari has in sports cars is huge in itself. By a measure of awareness it probably rivals F1’s reach.
I think both would survive a split but both would be poorer for it. Fez would be stupid to start up their own rival series. WhT would be the point of that?? It’d mean dumping a lot of heritage just to try an do the same thing elsewhere…

33

My last point could link to your original point Jon. The performance gap between the 4 engine suppliers are too vast. This is the first time I have seen such gaps in my life on engine performance. I blame on on the current regulations. BE and Mosely came allowed this to happen. I am not sure the fairer fund distribution between all teams will solve that engine issue.

Look at Honda for example. Honda spent more money compared to any other engine suppliers every year since joining McLaren. Hence, look at the gap. It’s all nice to point out $100m to Ferrari, $75m to McLaren. As far as I am concerned, that’s not the biggest problem with the current product, the problem is dogged engine regulation.

34

We have had some duff engine performance ( yamaha, judd) but I can not remember such a disparity for so long
http://en.f1i.com/magazine/262215-10-worst-engines-formula-1-history.html/2

35

F zero, if the current horsepower gap is the largest in your lifetime, then you can’t be very old! Automotor Und Sport got hold of the results of some gps data analysis done by one of the teams recently, they showed the Mercedes to have 949 bhp and the Ferrari 934….

36

IMO those power estimates don’t mean very much as no one knows what settings the teams are running in a particular moment, what mode, how long they can run on that mode etc etc.. apart from the teams themselves. Fans have no idea.

37

NickH, well you could make that assumption if you wish, but I would imagine the teams are probably well aware of the use of different engine settings, and would probably have taken the readings over multiple sessions to take this into account. It is certainly far more compelling evidence than anything the “yawning chasm” brigade have ever come up with.

38

That’s exactly my point. Let’s see if JA cares to publish measurable analyzing who benefits most from this partnership (F1 vs all the big teams, not just Ferrari).

39

You may be right (and Bernie too) but then you lose the right to complain about the product as it is currently. The huge heritage payout gaps means the rich get richer and the poor, poorer and it only takes teams with enough financial muscle to take it to the likes of Ferrari. It also means we are light years away from seeing a Leceister city type breakthrough in F1

40

I might have replied to you instead of Aveli. Apologies.

41

@Aveli, sometimes I don’t understand if you are serious about the things you say or you also believe in the first thing that comes to your mind. I was embarrassed reading the 3 comparisons to football you gave, baffles me how you weren’t embarrassed writing it.

#1- all three races you mentioned were extremely rain effected and minimum of 6 cars were dnfs. That’s like Barcelona playing with 7 players on the ground against the second division team.
#2- Button won withHonda 10 years ago!!! I don’t even have to go too far back to find an example in football. Just yesterday Arsenal lost to a 2nd division team and raining champion Real Madrid drew against 14th place (and 10/30th of RM value) Celia Vigo.

I can’t even take you seriously when you come up such things to an adult debate.

42

if claims are made that lower teams do not win in f1 and i sight edxamples of lower teams winning, you try to cause confusion by making other claims. i am so sorry but i am not easily confused. lower teams do win in f1. look through your favourite sport, football, and you will also find out that it is very rare for lower teams to win.
f1 is doing better than it has ever done, more popular than ever before and you’re still moaning telling me that you are embarrassed by my post? why does the truth embarrass you?

43

1/30th of the value.

44

brawn won both championships in 2009, long before leicester city’s victory. f1’s well ahead of football in that score.

45

Also the conversation is about midfield teams having a chance to win every year (happens at least couple of times a month in one of the top football leagues). And your last example of Button I’m Honda happens in 2008!!! Even someone with Alzheimer can remember such rare occasion in F1.

46

Not sure if you misread or misunderstood my comment. I actually didn’t say I agreed with BE. I also said every team should be paid on results, not names. My comment to JA was to do an analysis of how much it would hurt F1 financially if the Big teams, particularly Ferrari weren’t in it.

In regards to your comment about seeing Leceister city type results, I do agree somewhat. Leceister city type result is also rare in EPL or any other top leagues in Europe. You can argue that Brawn GP result was not so dissimilar to Leceister City type result. The difference is that in football, at least top 3-4 teams have a chance of winning the championships most of the time. Also mid field or lower teams have opportunities to win against the big teams quite regularly. In F1 that doesn’t exit unless massive downpour wipes half the grid off (even then its rare to see any mid field team fighting for the win). That makes the current product quite gross compared to most of the other sport. Therefore, the well paid rule makers has the responsibility to fix the product before asking fans to spend money on tickets, merchandise or cable tv subscription. Fans have all the rights to demand a better product than what we have been getting lately. Starting point for me isn’t the money distribution, it is sorting out the currnent engine situation (cost, noise, inequality amongst the field).

47

jotdan enjoyed a 1-2 finish with ralf schumacher and hill.

48

button won races in a honda. olivier panis won in monaco. those talking about lower teams having a better chance of winning in football than in f1 are not being truthful. only the top teams win in football except that rare occasion leiceter city won.

49

He won 1 rain effected lottery race, not ‘races’.

Also Honda are not a small team!

50

a win is a win, rain affected or otherwise. jordan won 1-2 with ralf schumacher and damien hill..

51

Blackburn Rovers 1994/95 Premier League Champions
Porto Champions League winners 2004
Greece Euro 2004 Champions

52

we’re they one off victories?

53

How many years ago was that?
How many cars finished the race?
What was the weather like?

As I said, I was embarrassed reading your examples. I don’t know how you weren’t writing it.

54

nothing else matters. a win is a win..

55

Darn it. You were doing really well until you mentioned ‘the noise’.

56

Lol sorry to disappoint you Baron. I’m getting migrain even thinking about the whistling sound.

57

Your last point for me links to your origional point. These engines are because the manufacturers wanted them and it was going to attract more manufacturers. Giving so much power to one elitist interest group has led us here with Ferrari and their 100 mil plus veto leading the pack.

58

Vijay Teflon Malpractice
aka cook the books Malliya !!
I can’t believe he hasn’t been extradited yet?
The guy has more lives than a syphilitic cat 🕵️‍♂️

59

malliya learned from ecclestone.

60

Who learned from the cat 😉

61

🤓Exactly Random 79👍

62
Tornillo Amarillo

What do you make of this development?

I see:

1. Latifi leapfrogged George Russel… someone said Force India wanted Russel but the later couldn’t commit to Force India in the long term, is that correct? did Mercedes block Russel to Force India?

2. Latifi is the 2nd Canadian on the current Formula 1, after Stroll, but I understand Latifi was 4 years in GP2/F2 and just winning 1 race… not so prommissing.

3. WHO is the sponsor of Latifi, the Royal Bank of Canada? His father? Big point to know James if you can give some input here. And How Mallya problems could affect financially Force India from now on?

63

3. probably his dad who is the CEO and chairman of Sofina Foods Inc – Largest poultry provider in Canada.

64
Ricciardo Aficionado

One race win in 4 years is dire.

65

The Jean Alesi of GP/F2 (though Alesi had only 1 win in 13 seasons in F1)?

66
Ricciardo Aficionado

Pastor Maldonado was another, classic, one win wonder!

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