Why Latifi is struggling so much with F1 2022 Williams

He was overshadowed by a new teammate Alex Albon, as he found it harder to adapt to a new car than a former Red Bull man. He also suffered a series of accidents that forced the team to focus both on replenishing spare parts and on preparing updated parts.

Last year, everything looked much better to him. The Canadian gained real momentum in the second half of the season, often giving to a teammate George Russell hard time. Indeed, when Williams made a breakthrough with a double result in Hungary. Latifi finished seventh, just ahead of Russell.

Unfortunately, 2021 ended in a late accident at the Abu Dhabi GP that launched a safety car that reversed the battle for the World Cup.

After that, he was subject to criticism and even death threats from dissidents Lewis Hamilton fans on social media.

It would be difficult for anyone to cope with that, and that was certainly on his mind when he goes to 2022.

The last thing he needed was more accidents, but at the second event of the year in Jeddah he fell in qualifying and in the race again.

Another major incident occurred when he collided with Lance Stroll in qualifying in Australia, although his countryman took the blame from the FIA ​​stewards.

All drivers had to adjust to the 2022 ground effect cars and the way they behave, and given that the Williams seem to have lost competitiveness over last year, Latifi had no easy process.

“I think it’s a head game, right?” His team boss Jost Capito remarked last weekend in Imola. “He’s capable of driving very fast and making the same lap time as Alex if he’s in the right place, I’m sure.

“The cars are a little heavier and trickier to drive than last year, and he has to figure it out. Of course, if you have a few deviations, you have to find confidence again. But he’ll get a lot of support from the team and we’re sure he’ll arrive.”

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW44

Photo by: Williams

Capito admitted that the negative consequences from Abu Dhabi did not help his driver.

“I think he was most influenced by comments and threats on social media last year. We helped him get through it.

Of course, he has had these incidents several times, as already mentioned, it does not boost his self-confidence. But we are trying to increase his self-confidence, we are working with him and I think he is getting better at it. And he has to learn it and I think good luck. “

In Imola last weekend, Latifi ran behind Albon at an early stage, and both started close behind. The latter was among the first to move to slicks on the drying track, and Latifi pitted with the majority of the field in the next round.

Their tire changes were split by just one lap, but Albon won several seats and the pair were separated by four cars at the flag. The timing of his stoppage reflected Latifi’s current situation – he didn’t want to risk going out of stock too soon and potentially making a mistake.

“Obviously we were pretty close to each other on the first step,” he remarked after the flag.

“And at first when I came out of boxing, I thought I was going to be in front of him because he didn’t seem to be in sight anywhere.

“I guess the track was obviously ready for a slice. But just the overall feeling I still have with the car, just without confidence with it, I definitely wouldn’t want to be the first to go, and I was happy to let other people go first, just to confirm that it’s okay.In the end I guess it was pretty expensive for a lot of time on the track.

“I just lost with a later stop. For me, it’s just positive things about the pace I’m going to take from today. Whether you finish P11 or P12, or P18, it doesn’t matter to us right now.”

It’s rare for an F1 driver to admit that a lack of confidence has influenced strategic decisions, no matter what his teammate does for a better job.

However, Latifi is always refreshingly open and honest when discussing all areas for improvement.

“I just didn’t have a good feeling with the car from Saudi Arabia, even before the collision,” he notes. “Every driver will say when you don’t trust the car below, what he will do, it can be a very dangerous thing.

“I don’t mean in terms of safety, I mean that the car catches you, that there are incidents and that you are not comfortable pushing the boundaries.

“So even when the pace is relatively good, or strong, I don’t necessarily have to still feel okay, I’m happy with the way I feel. I think it’s something that will come with time.”

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW44

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW44

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Pictures of motorsport

Latifi admits she feels uncomfortable with the car in general, not in certain circumstances.

“It’s everywhere. As soon as you’re not straight on the plane, then it starts. Alex is obviously more comfortable with the car.

“Regardless of the pace of the car, we know we lack thrust, we know we’re struggling with balance issues. I mean, this is clear. But he’s doing a better job of managing the team.

“And I have to get to that level. And, again, for me it’s just pure feeling and confidence with the car, it’s not a driving style,” [or that] I brake too late, I don’t drive fast enough, this and that.

“If you don’t feel confident with the car, you can’t start working on the technical aspects, and that will always be the case. So first it’s self-confidence, and then everything else is secondary, actually.”

What’s really going wrong with Latifi? Williams performance manager Dave Robson admits that this year’s cars behave very differently when braking, and that drivers have to adapt to an unfamiliar feeling.

“The last few years the rear of the car would have lifted a lot,” Robson says. “Which obviously pushes the front wing close to the ground, so the balance through the bends as you brake and start turning is completely different.

“This car just stays pretty flat because it’s just low and stiff, and it doesn’t come out that much. I don’t think you can do much about it, aerodynamically it only happens when you run the back of a car low and stiff.

“So you just need to find other ways, which is a combination of the car’s mechanical settings, and the driver just needs to learn a bit. That’s what these cars are doing now. We could run it high and soft, but it wouldn’t be fast.”

Latifi believes that a car that will forgive him better will suit him better, and he admits that it is about adapting his approach to the FW44, as well as trying to find a lineup that suits him better.

“It’s sure to be both,” he says. “Obviously, if one driver on the other side of the garage isn’t happy with the car, but at least he can drive it better, you can say I definitely have to try to get to that level. And that’s for sure.

“But since this is not happening in Saudi Arabia, every round I make, I honestly don’t feel any progress.

“There could definitely be some changes that might bring me a little more, not in terms of car stabilization, because that’s not what we need to do. We did it in Australia, and it didn’t work out.

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW44

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW44

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Pictures of motorsport

“There are other parameters you can play with, maybe try to have a car that forgives. So you need to think about that in the future.”

Albon has a different style and approach to Russell, but Latifi does not believe that the development and choice of setting up his new teammate make the car less friendly to him.

“Not at all. Basic car, when we arrived in Bahrain, the weaknesses we have were very clear. And we are still struggling with these limitations on every track we go on, just some tracks to reveal a little more, some songs a little less, but the limitations are still there.

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“And personally, it’s harder for me with this car than with the car from the previous two years. Regardless of the relative pace and everything else. All cars are slower, that’s given.

“But the pure feeling I have with the car, its driving tendencies and how confident I am have brought it to its limits, even if the balance isn’t what we want like this team. It’s still not where it should be right now.”

Another additional challenge for Latifi is running on street obstacles or temporary circles coming. Miami, Baku, Monaco and Montreal are all places where self-confidence is everything and there is a small margin of error, and only Barcelona will provide a real respite.

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