Nicholas Latifi’s preparation prior to stepping up to a Formula 1 race seat means he should almost not be considered as a rookie, according to his team-mate.
Latifi has secured a race seat with Williams for 2020 – as the sole rookie on the grid – after spending four years in Formula 2, capping his time in the series with the 2019 runner-up position.
Latifi has taken part in 11 Friday practice sessions across the last two years for Force India and Williams.
Prior to that he held a test driver role at Renault – leading to running in its contemporary car – and also had private outings in Mercedes’ Formula 1 machinery.
“Firstly he’s a great driver but he’s probably the most prepared rookie Formula 1 has had ever almost,” said Russell on Latifi.
“He’s driven a Force India, Williams, Mercedes, Renault, has been testing 3-4 years in Formula 1 now.
“So on paper he’s a rookie but the reality is he’s not, he’s definitely going to be tough to beat, I’m ready for the challenge and looking forward to the battle.”
When those comments were put to Latifi, the Canadian weighed up the pros and cons of his current situation.
“We all know what a great driver George is so I’ll have a great reference,” he said.
“Since 2016 I’ve been associated with Formula 1 teams and have had a decent amount of experience, so from that regard even though it is difficult to come in as a rookie because there’s less testing, I do feel well prepared.
“I do feel the next step I had to take was the race driver role as rookie days and tyre tests there’s only so much more [learning] you can get, and this really was the next step.
“I do [feel] well prepared but I’m not underestimating the challenge of being a rookie in Formula 1 as I’m sure any previous driver on the grid will say!”