‘We were so close to points’ says frustrated Latifi after Austrian Grand Prix
After waiting for over three months longer than planned to make your Formula 1 debut, just completing a race might seem like a successful afternoon, but Williams' Nicholas Latifi wanted more in Austria.
The Canadian is the only rookie on the grid this season, and so the Austrian Grand Prix was his F1 debut after coming so close to achieving that milestone in Melbourne back in March.
The 2020 Formula 2 Championship runner-up recovered from a crash in FP3 to enjoy a largely incident-free race on Sunday – equalling team mate George Russell's best F1 finish in the process – but with so many retirements he admitted finishing one place outside the points was bittersweet.
“Prior to this weekend if someone would have told me I would finish P11 in the first race I would sign there and take it as a great result,” Latifi said.
“For sure there’s a bit of frustration knowing how close we were to picking up a point, it was a race of attrition - a lot of cars breaking down, drivers making mistakes - so the priority for me was first and foremost to get all the laps done, get the experience and take all the learning from it.
“It wasn’t an easy race still from my side, already from the first laps I was managing some issues that were preventing me from pushing as hard as I could have. I was very happy with the second-last Safety Car just because it allowed me to get back into the pack at least and experience a bit more of that close-quarter combat, or at least see it unfold in front of me! Unfortunately we didn’t quite have the pace to partake in it.
“But pretty pleased with the result, a lot learned this race and this weekend. Luckily we’re back here next weekend and I can put it into effect.”
As Williams did not carry out a shakedown or filming day, the last time Latifi drove a Formula 1 car before this weekend was at the final pre-season test, so Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Roberts said the importance of completing race mileage should not be underplayed.
“Nicholas drove very well in some challenging circumstances,” Robson said.
“Although he finished just out of the points, he was able to complete the full race distance and as a result gain a lot of valuable experience from the day; although he has practiced race situations repeatedly in the simulator, there is no substitute for the real thing.”
With Red Bull and Haas both failing to finish with either car, Latifi's result means Williams sit above both teams in the very early constructors' championship standings.