Williams: Abu Dhabi fallout 'affected' Nicholas Latifi in 2022

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Williams chief Jost Capito claims the fallout from last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has "affected" Nicholas Latifi in 2022.

The Canadian has become synonymous with the dramatic championship finale at Yas Marina, as his crash in the closing laps caused the Safety Car that set up the final lap showdown between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton for the title, following some controversial decisions by former race director Michael Masi.

Since then, Latifi has been a victim of abuse from one set of fans and even hailed as 'Goatifi' by another for his unintentional role in deciding the outcome.

And Capito recently spoke of how Williams tried to pick up the 27-year-old in the days after the race.

“We had to keep giving him the confidence,” he told the High Performance Podcast. 

“We said that there was nothing wrong, everything was fine but it’s very difficult because that was the end of the season, they all went on vacation.

“So he was not around every single day and also we didn’t interfere too much as we knew what was happening, we knew what was going on.

"He had switched his social media off so if we would have interfered too much, I think we would have made the situation even worse.

“He was fully aware that he had our backing, that we were absolutely convinced he didn’t do anything wrong.

“The crash, of course, it shouldn’t have happened but if you’re racing, you know, crashes can happen. And when we never blame a driver for that, it’s possible to crash because otherwise, you have to stay at home if you don’t want to crash.”

Latifi SAGP

Despite the reassurances, this year, Latifi's results have been poor, currently sitting as the only full-time driver yet to score a point, and on Friday, it was confirmed the Canadian would not be retained by the Grove-based team next season.

And Capito does believe the events of Abu Dhabi have continued to haunt the Toronto native.

“It was extremely hard, I think that’s hard for absolutely everybody and I think everybody who didn’t go through this has no idea how that feels,” he said.

“So even if you switch then your social media off, you are in contact with other people who still see it and it’s going on, and you just can’t get away.

“I think that was also a part of why it took him quite a while this 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 about this.

“So I can understand that and this is why we gave him the confidence and supported him all the season.”