Williams CEO Jost Capito thinks that Nicholas Latifi’s crash in Abu Dhabi last year, which sparked the controversial season finale at Yas Marina, has had a long-lasting impact on the Canadian’s driving.
The safety car was brought out as a direct result of Latifi’s incident in the closing laps of the race, an unfortunate decision that allowed Max Verstappen to win the world championship ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
However, Latifi came under attack and harassment on social media in the days and weeks that followed the thrilling conclusion by Formula 1 fans who blamed the Williams driver for Hamilton’s loss. When the cyberbullying turned into murder threats, Latifi was even compelled to hire his own security detail.
Williams quietly offered the Canadian its support but refrained from making a public statement because it thought doing so would only aggravate its driver’s predicament.
“We had to keep giving him the confidence… We said that there was nothing wrong,” Capito said, giving an account of the 2021 season finale. “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,” the Williams boss added. “He was fully aware that he had our backing, that we were absolutely convinced he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Latifi declared that he has gone past the thrilling F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi prior to the start of his 2022 campaign. However, the 27-year-old has had a very challenging season and continues to be the only driver on the grid who is yet to earn a championship point, which has fueled rumors that he would lose his drive with Williams.
Capito thinks there is a clear connection between the dismal season of his driver and the events in Abu Dhabi last year.
“The crash, of course, it shouldn’t have happened but if you’re racing then crashes can happen 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,” Capito added.
“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.”