Simon Roberts doesn’t want to fuel rumours about George Russell and Nicholas Latifi as he says nothing to confirm them with Williams, while Toto Wolff raises his hands up.
As new ownership takes the reigns at Williams F1 Team, and interim team principal Roberts settles into his new role, the security of its current driver line-up – once a matter of certainty – has become less sure, as reports of their ouster has come in.
Strong alternative drivers from up and down the grid, as well as outside of it, seem to pose a threat to both Nicholas Latifi and George Russell, particularly in the case of the latter, as he does not have the backing as other options such as Sergio Perez.
Latifi comes with support from Sofina foods and the coffee company Lavazza, both of which feature prominently on the revised 2020 Williams F1 livery. Russell, however, brings little to the table from a commercial perspective apart from the Mercedes engine price cut.
As such, rumors have circulated that the Brit could be out of a seat after 2020, despite heroics behind the wheel of his Williams across the past one and a bit seasons. “I’m not going to say anything about either of our drivers, they are both doing a great job,” Roberts began, addressing the gossip surrounding his driver.
“Dorilton bought the team, nothing changed. There’s so much speculation around I don’t want to inadvertently fuel it. Someone will take some nuance from whatever we say. We’re happy. Let’s watch the rest of the market,” Roberts continued, as he neither denied nor confirmed that both Russell and Latifi will stay on with Williams.
Mercedes team boss Wolff, whose organisation has some degree of influence over the matter, also addressed the topic. The Austrian stated, though, that in such a scenario, when the decision is financially motivated, it’s not for him or anyone else to judge.
“At the end, it’s Williams’ decision, we all know about George’s capabilities,” said Wolff to media including Motorsport Network, Racefans.net, The Race and more. “He is a star of the future who remains unbeaten by his team mates in F1. Sometimes he is able to show highlights in a car that is not competitive at the moment.
“And I think he’s a great team asset. But there’s obviously a financial reality that I cannot judge at all and it’s absolutely the judgement of the new owners and Simon to decide what they want to do going forward. We’ve touched base about George but at the end, like I said, it’s their call,” summed up Wolff, suggesting that if Williams opt for Perez, they can’t really do much about it.
Here’s what George Russell, Nicholas Latifi and Sergio Perez said