Nicholas Latifi got a taste of what it is like to take part in a Formula 1 race weekend as he drove in the opening practice session on Friday for the Canada Grand Prix and said afterwards that a seat on the grid is his priority.
The Force India reserve and test driver was also served up a helping of the questions that await him should he make the jump to motor racing’s glamour circuit as reporters quizzed him on whether it is his father’s money or his ability that will ultimately earn him a seat in F1.
Latifi’s businessman father last month purchased a stake of around 10 percent in the McLaren Group that includes the Formula One team, a $272-million investment that some viewed as a buy-in for his son, who currently competes in Formula 2.
After just a single 90-minute practise session, where Latifi finished second from the bottom on the time sheets, questions were already being asked about his Formula One credentials.
They were almost exactly the same questions that were put to Williams driver Lance Stroll a year ago when the Montreal teenager, who had his racing career financed by his billionaire father, appeared in his home Grand Prix for the first time.
Like Stroll, Latifi said that his results on the track would be his ticket to Formula 1 not his father’s money and connections.
“My father has made an investment in McLaren but ultimately it has nothing to do with my racing career,” assured a beaming Latifi after the morning session. “It was a pure commercial opportunity.
“Whether I arrive in Formula 1 or not it is something I want to achieve with my performances on the track.
“In terms of how soon, the sooner the better for me but it is really going to depend by my performances in Formula 2 and whether I can get the necessary super-licence points.”
Drivers cannot get a super-licence without acquiring points in other series.
The 22-year-old Canadian is currently racing in his third full season in F2 and while he described himself as patient he believes he is ready for Formula 1 next season.
His results on Friday, however, are unlikely to have raised any eyebrows.
Sergio Perez was back in the Force India for the afternoon session and delivered the ninth best effort.
“In general I am patient but the sooner the opportunity for my next opportunity comes in an F1 car the better,” said a beaming Latifi, unable to hide his delight of driving in his home Grand Prix. “I’m here to learn.
“You learn a lot from sitting in on the debriefs and learn from listening to the experienced drivers, I can learn a lot from them.”