Latifi calls P9 finish at Suzuka a 'nice reward' for Williams as Albon reveals radiator damage caused first lap DNF
Nicholas Latifi finished in the top 10 for the first time this season after taking the chequered flag in P9 at the Japanese Grand Prix. After the race, the Canadian reflected on the “nice reward” of points at Suzuka, as team mate Alex Albon was left regretting costly contact that brought an untimely end to his race.
Latifi started from 19th on the grid and made his way up to 15th before the race was red flagged. After the race resumed, Latifi – along with Sebastian Vettel – dived into the pit lane early to make the switch from the extreme wet tyres to the intermediates.
The Williams driver was able to undercut his rivals as he made it up to eighth after the rest of the field came into the pit lane. However, after his former team mate George Russell overtook him, Latifi was forced to settle for P9.
“[I’m] really happy with that,” said Latifi when asked about getting into the points. “At the end it was very tough conditions out there. For me it was clear on the Safety Car formation lap that it was going to be inter conditions, so we just made the call right away to just get on them as soon as possible.
“Obviously, that was crucial in getting those points, [also] having a little bit of free air because that was the biggest thing in being in the pack was the spray. The tyre was clearly the wrong choice, the full wet.”
He continued: “It was very difficult to manage at the end. The front tyres were gone eight laps into the stint, so it was just hanging on really and just trying to bring it home. So to get points was a nice reward for everybody.”
This was Latifi’s first points finish since the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix. And when asked how it felt getting into the top 10 after a difficult season – Williams having revealed in September that they would be parting company with the Canadian at the end of the year – Latifi said: “It’s nice to get some points for sure but again in the end… even if a decision hadn’t been made yet about my future, a race like this wouldn’t have really changed much.
“I’ve always said that it was about consistency across rounds, not one good result. It’s obviously a nice personal boost for me for sure, coming to the end of the season and my time with the team. Obviously, it's just some more points for the team, which is always great. But beyond that, nothing much more.”
Team mate Albon was one of two drivers – along with Carlos Sainz – to retire on the first lap. And the Thai racer explained the incident with Kevin Magnussen that caused him to stop on track, explaining just how difficult it was for the drivers to navigate the wet conditions.
“I had slight contact at the start, and it was a small incident actually, but he just hit where the radiator was and lost some pressure, some water pressure so had to retire,” said Albon. “It was one of those things where visibility was non-existent. I’m sure it was bad for everyone but the cars at the back we were not even able to keep it in a straight line.
“I mean literally, using the white line at the track edge to kind of know where we were because we couldn’t see further than five metres in front of us. So, it was almost like we were just staring at the slight corner of our eyes to see where we were on circuit.”
He continued: “I think whatever everyone sees on onboards, it’s a hundred times worse out there on track. It’s really bad out there… I’m surprised only two cars DNF’d in that one.”
Latifi’s points in Suzuka moved Williams’ tally for the season to eight, while keeping them P10 in the standings, some 26 points adrift of next-best AlphaTauri.