The Brazilian Grand Prix weekend was Nicholas Latifi’s strongest in two seasons at the Williams Formula 1 team in terms of performance relative to team-mate George Russell, but despite that he was admonished over the radio after the chequered flag.
Latifi’s first message over the radio after finishing the race after being told the finishing positions was to say “I’m not happy with the strategy at all guys”.
This led to race engineer Gaetan Jego saying “not on the radio mate, do not use the radio for that”.
It was a sour end to a weekend on which Latifi had outpaced his Mercedes-bound team-mate in Friday qualifying and then held him off to finish 16th in the sprint race, before Sunday went awry.
Latifi ran 18th at the end of the first lap of the grand prix having initially lost a place to Russell when he locked up and ran wide off the track at Turn 1. Russell then locked up at Juncao, compromising his exit and allowing Latifi to repass him.
He moved up to 16th having gained a place when Yuki Tsunoda pitted after hitting Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin at Turn 1. But Latifi dropped behind Kimi Raikkonen, Lando Norris and Tsunoda on the restart lap after the safety car to run 19th. He was ahead of Russell at that point, as his team-mate had pitted under the safety car.
Latifi was then called into the pits at the end of lap 13 while running 18th having gained a place when Mick Schumacher pitted after a collision with Raikkonen. This was the second lap when the virtual safety car was active, but as it was withdrawn while the field was in the first sector on lap 14, he rejoined 19th and 18s behind Tsunoda.
Latifi subsequently caught and passed Nikita Mazepin for 18th, eventually finishing 16th thanks to the retirements of Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo – five places behind Russell.
“It was very lonely,” said Latifi of the race. “It shouldn’t have been lonely but we did something wrong.
“Sharing a piece of track with the guys at the beginning then finishing that far behind when I was nowhere near them for 90% of the race…I know the pace wasn’t that bad, so we’ll have to see if we pitted at the wrong time or what happened there.
“I was just by myself for the whole race.”
Latifi finished four seconds behind Tsunoda, who had to serve a 10-second penalty at his second pitstop for causing the collision with Stroll.
While Latifi was cautious not to be too critical of the strategy after the race, it was obvious that the timing of the stop under the VSC as it ended was an error – albeit perhaps an understandable risk on a weekend where Williams was struggling for speed and not a points threat on pace.
“We pitted under the VSC and then the VSC ended,” said Latifi when asked by The Race about the timing of the VSC pitstop.
“We lost pretty much a race lap compared to the guys who stopped on the first safety car.
“From inside the car, it’s difficult to see where it went wrong. I came out of the pits in that gap, [and was there] for the rest of the race because I just lost a free stop.”
Russell was the only driver who stopped under the safety car, so this decision was key in him finishing behind his team-mate.
Had the race played out normally, Latifi would potentially have finished ahead of Russell given he was ahead before the strategic divergence.
This would have been the first time Latifi had outqualified and outraced Russell in 35 events as team-mates.
Asked by The Race if he took satisfaction from his performance relative to Russell, Latifi replied “yes and no”, saying the fact it came on one of Williams’s worst weekends and the way the race panned out took the shine off it.
“We just didn’t have the pace we wanted to have as a team, especially not being able to challenge for Q2, it was the furthest we’ve been off in that regard,” Latifi continued.
“In the race, I wasn’t in a position to even race George unfortunately. That was completely out of my control, so on that side [there’s] not much else to comment on.”