There was a slight sense of déjà vu at the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last weekend, as Nicholas Latifi collided with the barrier and turned the race on its head.
Sergio Perez had taken pole in Jeddah, and was leading Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc relatively comfortably in the opening stint, maintaining the gap at just under two seconds.
He then pitted from the Mediums onto the Hards for the second part of the grand prix, leaving Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz out on track.
This was crucial because during Perez’s out-lap, Latifi lost control of his car at Turn 27, sending him into the wall and out of the race.
It triggered the Safety Car, meaning that the three leaders – who had all inherited their positions from the Mexican – got a cheap pit stop due to Perez’s now having to stick to the delta time.
He did manage to squeeze back ahead of Sainz as the Spaniard exited the pits, but the stewards deemed that the Ferrari driver was ahead as he traversed the pit exit, so Perez was forced to cede the position on the restart.
This follows on from the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December when Sir Lewis Hamilton was comfortably leading Max Verstappen in the dying moments of the race, and Latifi crashed at Turn 14, extracting the Safety Car.
It must be said that the circumstances at the end of last year’s championship were a lot more convoluted than they were on Sunday.
A highly controversial restart from no former race director Michael Masi led Verstappen to pass the Briton on the final lap of the race, but fans are amused by the fact that two crashes in the last three races for the Canadian have been massively influential in the end result.
“Latifi’s an FIA industry plant they’ve hired him for entertainment purposes,” tweeted Niran, a YouTuber and part of Lando Norris’ Quadrant group.
“His timing is immaculate,” replied one user, with another joking that he was “developed by Netflix,” who have become notorious for manipulating storylines to manufacture drama.
Another fan displayed tremendous meme adeptness, posting an image of Bob Parr in the Incredibles saying “It’s showtime,” captioning it Latifi when he has the opportunity to influence a race by crashing.
It has not been an easy few months for Latifi, who had to hire security in the aftermath of the race in Abu Dhabi due to him receiving death threats from Hamilton fans, so let’s hope his incident in Jeddah will not cultivate a similar overreaction.