Way back to late spring, when the primary rumblings of Alpine’s plan to put Oscar Piastri at Williams for subsequent yr had been beginning to emerge, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Latifi.
His on-track struggles meant there was not an enormous quantity to strengthen his case for holding his drive at Williams subsequent yr, making Friday’s affirmation his contract wouldn’t be prolonged an unsurprising announcement.
However the information offers Latifi the prospect to now take the following steps in his racing profession and provide some closure. His three seasons in F1 might not have introduced in regards to the outcomes he needed, however they’ve additionally included some extraordinarily troublesome circumstances – a tough capsule to swallow after so a few years getting ready to make the step up and realise your dream of being an F1 driver.
Latifi joined the F1 grid for 2020 with a sizeable quantity of testing beneath his belt, each carried out privately and in official periods, and proved in F2 he had the tempo to make the step up. But as Williams discovered itself nonetheless recovering from the disastrous 2019 season, minimize adrift from the remainder of the F1 pack, it was all the time going to be arduous for him to make an affect.
That’s earlier than you think about the season was sophisticated by COVID, delaying his debut till July, and the actual fact Latifi had a expertise like George Russell to deal with throughout the storage. It was not a simple place to begin for a rookie.
Latifi’s 2020 F1 debut got here after the pandemic pushed the beginning of the yr to July
Photograph by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Photos
The primary breakthroughs arrived final yr as Williams began to seek out extra efficiency, latching again onto the rear of the midfield. The topsy-turvy race in Hungary allowed Latifi to snare his first F1 factors with seventh, marking Williams’ first rating for greater than two years. Russell’s tears will be the overriding reminiscence of that day, however Latifi’s efforts had been additionally key. One other level adopted at Spa when the rain got here and minimize proceedings brief, giving him ninth after a stable qualifying on Saturday.
After which Abu Dhabi occurred.
The affect of final season’s finale on F1 as an entire is well-known. However Latifi is usually a forgotten man within the story. Because the fallout started, he discovered himself subjected to ridiculous accusations, abuse and even demise threats, the severity of which made him worry for his personal security. It was sickening to suppose a racing driver who merely made a mistake needed to be subjected to such vicious assaults from on-line trolls.
Latifi might have labored to try to transfer on from Abu Dhabi, however that’s simpler mentioned than performed. It could have an enormous psychological affect on anybody, regardless of how robust they might have develop into of their coaching as an elite athlete. In a current interview on The Excessive Efficiency Podcast, Williams F1 boss Jost Capito mentioned he thought the results of Abu Dhabi had impacted Latifi’s early-season kind.
“It was extraordinarily arduous,” mentioned Capito. “Anyone who didn’t undergo this has no thought how this feels. Even if you happen to change off your social media, you might be in touch with different individuals who nonetheless see it. it’s occurring, and also you simply can’t get away.
“I’m positive it affected his driving after that. I’m satisfied about this. I can perceive that, and for this reason we gave him the arrogance and supported him all of the season.”
Latifi was subjected to threats and abuse after his crash precipitated the title-deciding security automobile at Abu Dhabi
Photograph by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Photos
Latifi’s battle for kind in comparison with his team-mate continued even when Russell was changed by Alex Albon. He was left baffled by the automobile, venting his frustration after Canada that there “wasn’t actually something pleasing” about his race on-track. A chassis change at Silverstone gave him the consolation he beforehand lacked, and he hoped Williams would decide him from then on – however when Nyck de Vries reached the factors at Monza as a late stand-in, it appeared to be the ultimate nail within the coffin for Latifi’s hopes of staying for 2023.
Few can sugarcoat Latifi’s leads to the final three years. However he deserved higher than his F1 profession turning into one thing of a meme, be it jokes reminiscent of Abu Dhabi, the nickname ‘GOATifi’, or making enjoyable of a few of his qualifying performances all within the hunt of social media clout.
It’s unclear what the long run holds for Latifi. He’s loved hyperlinks to a crew in F1 way back to 2018, when he made his follow debut for Power India whereas nonetheless racing in F2. An enormous change will now observe if he appears to be like to pursue choices in different racing classes. Latifi mentioned again at Zandvoort he was not giving a lot thought to choices outdoors of F1 till he knew what the long run held with Williams. However hopefully he can be part of the lengthy record of drivers who, after seeing their grand prix careers stall, go on to get pleasure from success elsewhere, be it in IndyCar or System E or sportscar racing. There are many choices on the market for him.
The main target now will likely be for Latifi to benefit from the last few races with Williams, absorb the expertise of racing in F1, and, if he’s nonetheless chasing some type of psychological reset or reduction owing to the affect of the abuse he confronted post-Abu Dhabi, discover that peace of thoughts.
In any case, some issues are extra essential than being an F1 driver.