Williams team principal Jost Capito has spoken in depth about the effect the 2021 season finale had on Nicholas Latifi, whilst featuring on the High Performance Podcast.
The Canadian driver has had a horrific 2022 season, which took an embarrassing turn at the recent Italian Grand Prix.
Interim team-mate Nyck de Vries, who replaced the ill Alex Albon, scored points on his debut in the championship.
As a result of De Vries matching the team’s best result of the season so far, Latifi was dropped to P21 in the Drivers’ Championship, despite there only being 20 cars on the grid.
The Canadian made some noticeable progress in 2021; however, he’s taken a huge step in the wrong direction this season.
The 2019 F2 runner-up is all but certain to be dropped by Williams for 2023, with De Vries or Williams Academy driver Logan Sargeant set to replace him.
Capito believes the aftermath of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the reason why Latifi has struggled this season, after the 27-year-old was forced into turning off his social media following death threats.
It was Latifi’s crash at the Yas Marina Circuit which resulted in the controversial Safety Car in the closing laps of the season, where race director at the time, Michael Masi failed to follow the rulebook in regard to restarting the race.
Had the rulebook been followed like it was at the recent race at Monza, then the race would’ve finished behind the Safety Car, meaning Sir Lewis Hamilton would’ve won the race and the championship.
As is well documented, Masi failed to follow the rules, by opting to only allow lapped cars between Hamilton and Max Verstappen to un-lap themselves, before restarting the race with a single lap remaining.
Capito explained that the backlash Latifi faced drained his confidence, something which is completely understandable.
“We had to keep giving him the confidence,” Capito said on the High Performance podcast.
“We said that there was nothing wrong. Everything was fine, but it was very difficult up until then because it was the end of the season.
“He was not around here every single day and also we didn’t interfere too much as we knew what was happening, we knew what was going on.
“He switched his social media off but if we would have interfered too much, I think we would have made the situation worse. That’s something everybody has to get over on their own. He was fully aware that he had our backing, that we were absolutely convinced he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Whilst Latifi has failed to deliver alongside Albon, Capito remains full of sympathy for the Canadian, who admits it took “a while” to “find his competitiveness”.
“The crash, of course, it shouldn’t have happened but if you’re racing then crashes can happen,” the German added.
“And we never blame a driver for that, it’s possible to crash. Otherwise, you have to stay at home if you don’t want to crash. I think that was also a part of why it took him quite a while in the season to find his competitiveness.
“I’m sure it affected his driving after that. It would have affected my driving a lot, I am absolutely convinced of this. So I can understand that and this is why we gave him the confidence and supported him all season and we knew he would come back.”