I HAVE A JOKE ABOUT A WILLIAMS TEST, BUT ONLY ROY NISSANY WILL GET IT
Despite a full rostrum of development drivers, Roy Nissany is being chosen above the rest. Why?
On Tuesday, Williams announced that Roy Nissany would replace George Russell in FP1 at Monza, the second of three scheduled practice sessions with the team, as well as a rookie testing day. The Israel-born 25-year-old is one of the team’s test drivers, alongside competing in Formula 2. Today, I wanted to examine why he has been picked, rather than his Williams teammates. After all, we know what happened the last time a Nissany tested an F1 car…
Nissany is a recent addition to the Williams Development Academy, which also supports Jamie Chadwick, Jack Aitken, and Dan Ticktum. With a roster of talent like that, you’d expect the 3 F2 drivers and W Series Champion would have equal opportunity to prove themselves in F1 cars, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Nissany is scheduled to take part in 3 practice sessions and a rookie test day this year, the others only have one between them (in the form of Aitken’s test in Austria). Williams isn’t the only Academy in which one driver seems to take precedent: Ferrari’s star-studded academy supports 3 of the top 4 in F2, and yet Mick Schumacher seems to be the only one catching Alfa Romeo's eye - I wrote about this here. However, this is by far a different issue; choosing a driver who contends with his teammates weekly seems fair, even if their heritage and history is a factor. Nissany, though, hasn’t proven himself to be better or even equal to his Williams teammates. He’s 17th in the F2 standings, compared to Aitken’s 14th (with back-to-back podiums) and Ticktum’s 9th. Whilst Chadwick is perhaps harder to compare, she does have junior three championships to her name, and is predicted to be the first female driver in modern Formula 1.
Of course, there are reasons for choosing the 25-year-old over his teammates. Nissany’s big break came in the Formula V8 3.5 Series. In the world series of this event, he finished 5th in 2017, a series the FIA considers ‘Tier 1’, equal only to Formula 2. No other Williams development driver has achieved this, but it doesn’t mean the others don’t deserve chances.
Aitken, for example, is three places above Nissany in the F2 standings. He also boasts a much healthier career record, with championship wins in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault 2.0 Alps, and Pro Mazda Winterfest - and finished 2nd in the 2017 GP3 Championship, behind only Williams driver George Russell. Aitken also finished 5th in the 2019 Formula 2 Championship, which suggests that his performance this year is not fully representative of his ability. Aitken clearly has a past more suited to a Formula 1 driver; his double podiums in Silverstone are certainly a testament to this. On the other hand, he did finish the 2016 Formula V8 3.5 Series in 15th, to Nissany’s 4th the same year, which was the series wherein Nissany’s talent began to show. Aitken does serve as the team’s official Reserve Driver, which might explain why he has tested less, despite being the team’s most likely choice to take an F1 seat. It's also worth pointing out that Aitken did test for Renault during his time as their Third and Reserve Driver, so he has more experience in an F1 car.
Another option for the team would be Dan Ticktum. He’s a more controversial choice, but Williams could offer him the chance to turn things around and make a step towards the Formula 1 seat that his driving suggests he deserves. He boasts back-to-back Macau Grand Prix victories, along with a European Formula 2 2nd place. These are not only a testament to his talent, but were achieved whilst alongside most of the current Formula 2 field, although notably not Aitken.
There’s one major point to make with Ticktum, though, and you probably know it already: his past. His 2015 driving ban (for purposefully colliding into a rival under a safety car) is talked about way too much, but it probably does factor into his selection, especially for a future F1 seat - let’s be honest, The Sun is hardly going to paint him as a sweetheart, are they? Free practice hardly makes national news, though. Ticktum was a BRDC McLaren Autosport Award winner in 2017 (like Russell and Norris) and was named Autosport National Driver of the Year. He’s the most decorated Williams development driver and has been in and around F1 teams since 2017. For me, he’s an obvious choice for Williams to put in their car.
Then comes Jamie Chadwick. Her and Tatiana Calderón are the only female drivers around Formula 1 at the moment, and her presence in Williams is so exciting. She doesn’t boast the traditional titles, but this is mainly because she hasn’t raced in the traditional series. Her W Series victory, though, consolidated her ability. Chadwick has never finished below 15th in any series she’s raced, and has had 9 series top-10s in her motorsport career since 2013.
She does have less experience in the big leagues, but putting her in an F1 test session could be the perfect opportunity to see her ability. Nissany, though, also had no notable series performances until 2016, where he was a similar age to Jamie Chadwick now. If she continues to progress through single-seater ranks, she could have a very impressive set of results in a few years. Putting her in an F1 car once or twice is an invaluable opportunity, as it allows F2 and F3 teams to properly gauge her ability.
So why does Nissany shine above the rest? It’s the elephant in the room - money. Criticising ‘pay drivers’ is so overdone, but this is the perfect example of it. Nissany is managed by Sylvan Adams, an Israeli billionaire who believes he can make Nissany a world champion. Yeah. I appreciate the guy’s vision, though: maybe he knows more than me. The investments he brings to Williams can’t be a bad thing for keeping the team’s heritage alive either, although the introduction of Dorilton Capital, and the subsequent resignation of the Williams family, perhaps nullify this.
Who knows? At least it can’t go worse than his father’s tests.
Does Williams know more than us about Nissany’s ability? Are they going to support their other drivers in a different way? Follow my Twitter @formulaAMELIA, and let me know in the comments!