Latifi explains how dealing with ‘undriveable’ Turkey conditions will make him and Williams ‘better off’
If being a rookie wasn’t already hard enough for Nicholas Latifi, the Williams driver says he was faced with the worst conditions he has driven in his life at Istanbul.
A new track surface provided very little grip even in dry conditions, but drivers then had to contend with wet weather on Saturday and Sunday that meant the slicks were not seen in either qualifying or the race. In what was “no doubt” the hardest race of his rookie Formula 1 season to date, Latifi ranks the conditions as the toughest he has ever raced in.
“I mean I’ve already had some very very tricky ones this year, Budapest being one of them where I drove the whole race with a very badly damaged car, and this took the cake really,” Latifi admitted. “I’m sure most drivers would say the same.
“The low grip to a certain extent it’s fun; FP1, once you realise how it’s going to be and wrap your head around: ‘OK there’s low grip, it’s going to be how it’s going to be’, you can have fun with it – but at some point you do expect the track to rubber in, at a certain standard to be able to go racing.
“The fact the rain made it 100 times worse, I’m surprised. I was expecting the rain to make it relatively better than how low grip it was in the dry, but it was just undriveable.
“Some cars, some drivers had an easier time, some more difficult. The position we are in… everything was down to tyres, getting them into the right window and you’re fighting for any bit of degree, half a degree, [of temperature] you could generate.
“If your car has that bit more grip, you pick up an extra km/h or two into the corners, you generate a bit more, and it generates a spiral, but not being in one of the stronger cars it becomes so, so tricky.
“Definitely the hardest conditions I’ve had to drive in my life, not just F1, just staying on track. A lot to learn, irrespective of how bad the qualifying was for me, how bad the race was for me, I definitely feel a better driver for it.
“I’m sure most drivers will say they are better for the experience of getting to drift a Formula 1 car around every lap and corner, but just frustrated with the whole outcome.”
It wasn’t just the difficulty in controlling the car in such conditions that Latifi struggled with, pointing out the mental capacity required to address other issues was also stretched.
“From a physical point of view nothing compared to in the dry but mentally we’re working as we can’t afford to let up and have those moments on the straight, when the car is usually easy flat, or when the car is on the grip that you can take a breath and take stock of ‘What are my tyres doing?’, ‘Do I need to make changes?’ - you’re constantly having to think, and on edge.
“It is only my second time driving Formula 1 cars in the rain. It wasn’t even rain, this was ice, worse than ice! I’ve driven on the ice in a rally car before with spikes and I can safely say I had more grip on that than I did this weekend in the wet and in the race. A very difficult challenge, but definitely something that we’ll be better off for having dealt with it.”