Nicholas Latifi: the 15th Canadian to make it to F1

May 9, 2024

Opening thoughts

Although other nations can boast a richer and deeper Formula One heritage than Canada, there’s still a cluster of drivers who have been able to match up to some of the top names of their era. Of the 15 Canadian drivers who have made it into Formula One, only four have managed to score points, and the driver we’re focusing on today, Nicholas Latifi, falls right into that category.

Latifi’s stint in F1

Becoming an elite Formula One driver is no mean feat; it is an exceptionally challenging task that few drivers can ever accomplish. While casual fans might be enamored by the mysticism of greats like Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton, having the sheer grit, skill and athleticism it takes to even get into a position to score points in an Formula One race is a marvelous achievement.

Gambling on such a career takes an incredible amount of investment and time, and given that only a tiny percentage of drivers make it to the elite stage, Latifi should be commended for flying the flag for his fellow Canadians. While Lewis Hamilton’s career records are hardly the same as a Nicholas Latifi career, that doesn’t mean that the Canadian cannot celebrate his success in Formula One, and the fact that he’s managed to hang his helmet up without being forced out of the door.

How does Latifi compare to his countrymen?

Canadian Formula One fans need no reminding about who the king of racing is in their country – Jacques Villeneuve remains the only Canadian to have ever lifted the Formula One Championship. Although Latifi raced for the same team, Villeneuve is ultimately streets ahead of any other Canadian driver in history, and his 1997 championship win remains a high point for Canadian motorsports.

Exemplified by the fact he qualified for the Daytona 500 in 2022 at the age of 50, it could be a long time before we see a driver of this quality hailing from Canada again. It would be unfair to pit Latifi against Villeneuve; not only did they race in different eras, but the whole landscape of the sport has changed in the meantime.

There is Gilles Villeneuve, of course, the legendary father of Jacques, whose name has been immortalized in the naming of the Canadian Grand Prix circuit. The family pairing makes up 50% of Canadians who have managed to get their name on the scoreboard in a Formula One race, alongside Latifi. More recently, Lance Stroll, the second-youngest driver ever to end up on the podium, cemented the immense early promise he showed during his Formula 3 career.

What’s next for Nicholas?

Often commended by fans for his likable and approachable persona, Latifi decided to take a break from Formula One and obtain a business degree. His Formula One career is on a hiatus for now, and it’s uncertain whether we will see him out racing again. While Nicholas might not have the most remarkable points total or career stats, some fans have joked that this particular career change may suit him.

His exploits on the track have ranged from the bizarre wrong turn he took at Suzuka to becoming the main antagonist in the astonishing lap between Verstappen and Hamilton at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. While it might be fun to poke fun at Nicholas, he wouldn’t have managed to get anywhere near Formula One if he didn’t have the incredible ability and drive it takes to make it in the first place. If anything, it just shows how skilled these men are at the very pinnacle of the sport.

Final thoughts

Perhaps we might see him come back into Formula One in some business capacity, as he is somebody who has an excellent knowledge of the sport and has a knack for it. He’s a young man, and he clearly has a wise head on his shoulders, regardless of some of his questionable driving antics, and this decision to take a temporary break hasn’t been taken lightly.

It’s refreshing to see a character in Formula One who doesn’t have an ego or who talks down to other drivers, and it’s this maturity that will likely stand him in good stead in the business world. Maybe one day, he will get that impulse again to get back behind the wheel – but for now, it’s looking unlikely we will see him at the top level again, at least for the next three years.

From a Canadian perspective, Lance Stroll is now the main man in Formula One. While his career has stalled somewhat following an explosive start to his career, he is still only 25, with a long and hopefully successful racing career ahead of him.