Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Penalty for Safety Car error was just one of Latifi’s frustrations in Baku

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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A frustrated Nicholas Latifi took the chequered flag in 13th place last weekend, but was relegated to 16th by a 10-second stop-and-go penalty.

His race engineer Gaetan Jego apologised for the error which led to the penalty, and cost Latifi what would have been his best finish of the season so far. The Williams driver was told to “stay out” after drivers had been told to drive through the pit lane during the Safety Car period following Max Verstappen’s crash.

Latifi understandably took this as an instruction not to enter the pits. His team had meant for him to come through the pits but not stop at their box. The stewards therefore slapped him with the penalty, which was served after the race, meaning 30 seconds were added to his race time.

“On the operational side, there were a few things where we needed to be sharper so it’s unfortunate,” Latifi rued after the race. But it wasn’t the only frustration he incurred in the race: Latifi was also at odds with his team over strategy and had to manage an engine problem. And, like many of his rivals, he was puzzled by some of race control’s calls in response to Verstappen and Lance Stroll‘s crashes, as these extracts from his team radio show.

“Is there a Safety Car?”

Latifi was one of several drivers who was shown Safety Car boards immediately after Stroll’s crash, well before it was deployed:

Jego We’ll keep you posted but big crash from Stroll in the main straight.
Latifi Safety Car, Safety Car.
Jego I don’t see it.
Latifi I see the Safety Car boards, but I don’t see the lights.
Jego Pit entry is closed, stay out, pit entry is closed. Probably a lot of debris on the start-finish
Latifi Is there a Safety Car though? I don’t see the lights.
Jego No, it is not Safety Car, no. So stay positive, pit entry is closed.
Jego So watch out your delta and be careful on start-finish, a lot of debris. Stroll is on the left-hand side, just pay attention. It’s after turn 20 after pit entry. Before pit entry, correction.
Latifi Staying right-hand side, got debris all left hand side,
Jego Okay and make sure you work your tyres. Front axle, mostly.

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“It’s going to be dangerous to restart here”

Having switched from medium to hard tyres on lap nine, Williams clearly wanted to run Latifi to the end of the race on a one-stop strategy. But he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to warm his tyres up quickly enough after the first restart, and urged the team to pit him again.

Williams chose to leave him out, however. Seconds after he remarked “I really hope it doesn’t go green next time by” he was told the Safety Car was coming in. Latifi warned his team trying to restart on his worn rubber would be “dangerous”.

Latifi If the pit entry clears before we start, we should consider boxing for sure.
Jego I got the message [unclear] as well.
Latifi I can’t keep these tyres up. There’s no grip.
Jego Stay out, stay out.
Latifi If it’s clear next time, we should’ve just stopped.
Jego Just for info we have Alonso, Giovinazzi, Russell and Schumacher that have pitted.
Latifi I really hope it doesn’t go green next time by.
Jego As will be Safety Car in this lap, prepare for the restart. Schumacher had a problem, he didn’t rejoin. So situation is behind you Alonso, Giovinazzi and Russell they all have pitted. Alonso on quali, Giovinazzi and Russell on prime.
Latifi So what are we doing? It’s going to be dangerous to restart here, I have no temps.
Jego We stay out and Safety Car in this lap. We have to prepare for restart. You are on the same [unclear] as all the cars in front of you.
Latifi But I’m in a different car than all them. It’s ridiculous.
Jego Yes, Nicky, I know, I know, but just try to best to put back in temperature brakes and tyres and you will do restart this lap, restart this lap.

“HPP and critical”

Williams fitted fresh Mercedes power units to both cars earlier in the weekend. George Russell experienced a problem with his during final practice, and had to switch back to his previous motor.

Latifi encountered an unspecified problem with his power unit during the race, and was told to back off twice per laps to reduce the strain on it:

Jego That’s 10 to go.
Jego Gap 2.2. Pulling away, that’s a very good lap.
Jego We need to light cool into turn five and seven, 50 metres in each please. Five and seven, 50 metres.
Latifi What’s that for?
Jego HPP and critical.
Latifi Only five and seven?
Jego Affirm. Five, seven only. That was good.
Jego So we expect to do this light cool turn five and turn seven to the end of the race.

“I don’t know why they’re not putting VSC or Safety Car”

When Verstappen crashed with five laps to go race control waited to deploy the Safety Car until every driver passed the crash scene, including Latifi in 15th place. He was one of several drivers to criticise the decision:

Latifi I don’t know why they’re not putting VSC or Safety Car, it’s fucking dangerous.
Jego Okay, Safety Car, keep delta positive keep delta positive.
Latifi We definitely have to box now, no question. How many laps?
Jego So that’s red.
Latifi Okay red flag, race is probably done then.
Jego So we’re red three [unclear] four.
Latifi Oh, copy, I thought you said red flag.

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“You told me to stay out”

Once the Safety Car was deployed, all drivers were told to pass through the pits to avoid the debris-strewn crash scene. Following more confusion on the radio, Latifi did not come in, leading to his penalty:

Jego Stacked stop, stacked stop. Car in front gap is currently 8.5 so safe. You just have to follow your delta. Follow delta and you’ll be safe. If you have opportunity to lift at pit entry to cool down the car we would like to.
Jego And box, box. Watch white line and pit limiter.
Jego Stay out, stay out, stay out, stay out, stay out, stay out.
Latifi Okay.
Jego Through the pit lane but no pit stop. Through the pit lane but no pit stop.
Latifi Ah, you told me to stay out. Stay out means stay on the track.
Jego Sorry, sorry.
Latifi Did I have to go through the pit lane?
Jego You had to go through the pit lane so I think you’ll have to let the car pass, let the car pass.
Latifi Okay.
Latifi Are they going to pass me or…
Jego Stand by on that, stand by please.
Latifi I don’t know who to let by and who to not.
Jego [Unclear] keep the position, keep the position for the moment, please.
Latifi Am I still following delta or did I cross twice?
Jego Okay, so you crossed once, you crossed once, still following delta.
Jego So keep warming up front axle please, keep warming.
Latifi Box?
Jego We still need to drive through the pit lane. And that’s red flag, red flag.
Latifi Copy, copy.
Jego So all the cars will go through the pit lane, they will stay in the fast lane. The first car will stop at the end of the pit lane and you need to leave some gap in front of you and to your right.
Latifi How many laps are left?
Jego So that’s four to go, four to go. So that would be three to go…
Latifi For sure they’re not going to restart it.
Jego They probably won’t restart this.
Jego Stop the engine.
Latifi Copy. Just leave it in P1?
Jego Yep. So at the moment, I don’t have confirmation, but you switch off to P1.
Jego So they say they will restart. They say they will restart.
Jego OK, so switch off the engine, P1 and revert to P2. So then the race will restart. Will restart. There’s three laps left? So obviously we’re under investigation for not using the pit lane.
Latifi Yeah, well, I think it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen then.
Jego Yes, yes, I can only apologise.

“You can drive normally”

There was one piece of good news for Latifi prior to the restart, as he was told he no longer had to worry about his engine problem:

Jego And Nicky I confirm there would be no management as to the HPP issue we had, no management, Nicky.
Jego Nicky we have eight minutes.
Latifi Radio check.
Jego Radio check is loud and clear, can you hear me?
Latifi Yeah. Just for the management issue, does that mean the issue has been resolved or we’re just going to see how it is?
Jego I think it’s just that you don’t have to worry about it. You can drive normally.
Jego Copy.

“So with the penalty you are P16”

Latifi took the chequered flag, which was at least more than Russell managed to do following a gearbox problem:

Jego Chequered flag. Be careful of the chequered flag into turn one.
Latifi Copy.
Jego Remember you are go in and pick up rubber, go in and pick up rubber.
Latifi Copy.
Jego So with the penalty you are P16.
Latifi Yeah copy.
Latifi Did George not take the start?
Latifi Affirm. He could not.
Latifi There’s not really any rubber to pick up.
Jego Copy, understood, that’s fine.
Jego Classification is Perez, Vettel, Gasly.
Latifi I was only P14 on the road though, right?
Jego Yes, that’s correct. Ah, P13 because Hamilton went straight, you were P13.
Latifi Ah, okay, copy.
Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Latifi took the chequered flag in 13th but was classified last of the runners

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8 comments on “Penalty for Safety Car error was just one of Latifi’s frustrations in Baku”

  1. It’s a matter of pride to finish 13e and by a real bizarre mistake of his engineer only 16.
    He did well in a bad car with lots of extra stress. It’s no top driver but I like the guy

  2. He deserved better here, he made the right calls throughout the race but his team really let him down.

    1. Williams letting me down again since Imola. I can’t trust them anymore.

  3. His engineer should be fired tbh. It is like talking to the wall

  4. Manny Morin
    11th June 2021, 21:40

    That clearly explains why the team is relegated so far behind. Great engine but overall incompetent organisation

  5. Everyone can have a bad day. If that kind of standard continues from his race engineer you’d have to be looking at changes. By the way, agree with Latifi about his views on race control. F…. dangerous indeed.

    1. Soon the outcome for Michael Masi will be clear…

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