Already in late spring, when the first rumors of Alpine’s plan to place Oscar Piastri at Williams for next year were beginning to emerge, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Latifi.
His troubles on track meant there wasn’t much to strengthen his case for keeping his drive at Williams next year, so Friday’s confirmation that his contract would not be extended was not a surprising announcement.
But the news gives Latifi a chance to take the next steps in his racing career and offer some closure. His three seasons in F1 may not have given him the results he wanted, but they have also included some extremely difficult circumstances: a hard pill to swallow after so many years preparing to make the move and realize his dream of being an F1 driver. . .
Latifi joined the F1 grid for 2020 with a considerable amount of testing under his belt, both in private and official sessions, and he showed in F2 that he had the pace to take the plunge. However, as Williams found himself still reeling from the disastrous 2019 season, cut off from the rest of the F1 pack, it was always going to be difficult for him to make an impact.
That’s before you consider the season being complicated by COVID, which delayed his debut until July, and the fact that Latifi had a talent like George Russell to deal with in the garage. It was not an easy starting point for a rookie.
Latifi’s 2020 F1 debut came after the pandemic pushed the start of the year back to July
Photo by: Steven Tee/Motorsport Images
The first breakthroughs came last year when Williams began to find more performance, holding on to the rear of midfield. The upside-down race in Hungary saw Latifi take his first F1 points with seventh place, marking Williams’ first points finish in over two years. Russell’s tears may be the primary memory of that day, but Latifi’s efforts were also key. Another point followed at Spa when rain came and interrupted the process, giving him ninth place after a strong qualifying on Saturday.
And then Abu Dhabi happened.
The impact of the end of last season on F1 as a whole is well known. But Latifi is sometimes a forgotten man in history. When the fallout began, he was subjected to ridiculous accusations, abuse, and even death threats, the severity of which made him fear for his own safety. It was sickening to think that a racing driver who simply made a mistake had to be subjected to such vicious attacks by online trolls.
Latifi may have worked to try to move on from Abu Dhabi, but that’s easier said than done. She would have a huge mental impact on anyone, no matter how strong she has become in training herself as an elite athlete. In a recent interview on The High Performance Podcast, Williams F1 boss Jost Capito said he thought the effects of Abu Dhabi had affected Latifi’s early season form.
“It was extremely tough,” Capito said. “Anyone who hasn’t been through this has no idea how it feels. Even if you turn off your social media, you are in contact with other people who still see you. You know what’s going on, and you just can’t get away.
“I’m sure it affected his driving after that. I am convinced of this. I can understand that, and that’s why we gave him confidence and supported him all season.”
Latifi was subjected to threats and abuse after his crash triggered the safety car that decided the title in Abu Dhabi.
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar/Motorsport Images
Latifi’s struggle for form compared to his teammate continued even as Russell was replaced by Alex Albon. He was taken aback by the car, venting his frustration after Canada that “there really wasn’t anything nice” about her run on the track. A chassis change at Silverstone gave him the comfort he previously lacked, and he expected Williams to judge him from then on, but when Nyck de Vries made it to the points at Monza as a late substitute, it seemed to be the final nail in the road. . coffin for Latifi’s hopes of staying by 2023.
Few can sugarcoat Latifi’s results over the past three years. But he deserved better than his F1 career becoming something of a meme, either with jokes dating back to Abu Dhabi, the nickname ‘GOATifi’, or making fun of some of his qualifying performances, all for influence on social networks.
It is unclear what the future holds for Latifi. She has enjoyed links with an F1 team since 2018, when she made her training debut with Force India while still racing in F2. She now she will follow a big change if she looks to look for options in other career categories. Latifi said in Zandvoort that he didn’t think much of options outside of F1 until he knew what the future held for Williams. But hopefully he can join the long list of drivers who, after seeing their grand prix careers stall, are enjoying success elsewhere, whether in IndyCar, Formula E or sports car racing. There are many options for him.
The focus now will be on Latifi enjoying the last few races with Williams, soaking up the experience of racing in F1 and whether he’s still chasing some sort of mental reset or relief from the impact of the abuse he faced afterwards. Abu Dhabi, find that peace of mind.
After all, some things are more important than being an F1 driver.