Nicholas Latifi is the one full-time Method 1 driver who has not scored a degree this season.
Judging drivers by the championship desk alone is a ruthless and transient evaluation and in Latifi’s case it can lead many to conclude he’s the worst driver of 2022. However pace-wise he has been a good distance off, too.
On common supertimes for the season (the place we take the quickest lap of every weekend and make it a proportion of the outright finest) he’s the slowest of all, 0.8% behind Williams team-mate Alex Albon. Over a hypothetical 90-second lap that’s a deficit of round seven tenths.
Latifi’s outlook is loads brighter than that after the French Grand Prix, although. Even when qualifying slowest, operating within the decrease midfield and finally retiring after a conflict with one other driver doesn’t appear a lot of a shift in his narrative, not to mention appear to be a springboard for higher fortune.
“Ever since we modified the chassis for me, as an alternative of being half a second each single session, low gasoline or excessive gasoline, I’m precisely the place I have to be,” mentioned Latifi. “I will be optimistic about that. The season is again on observe and we will correctly begin.”
For some time it appeared like Latifi’s troublesome yr was solely all the way down to his struggles to adapt to the brand new technology of vehicles and the less-than-competitive FW44.
He was confused however, to his credit score, by no means appeared like he was in search of excuses.
When Latifi acquired a brand new chassis on the British Grand Prix, although, there was a notable step in efficiency and his perspective shifted barely. Perhaps he had been hamstrung by some type of underlying problem in spite of everything. However he didn’t wish to consider that swiftly.
Latifi’s shock Q3 look within the moist at Silverstone was by far and away his best exhibiting of the season regardless that it was an overachievement within the circumstances and he inevitably fell out of the factors positions in Sunday’s grand prix.
He was cautiously optimistic however very cautious of declaring a breakthrough, particularly because the circumstances via the Silverstone weekend made it powerful to attract a agency conclusion.
Latifi mentioned the identical the next weekend in Austria, the place the dash weekend format complicates driver and staff preparations and a superb start line in FP1 can swing efficiency considerably. Plus, he was nonetheless missing the improve package deal Albon had in Britain.
Nonetheless, it was apparent Latifi was extra optimistic. He was discovering it a lot simpler to take the automotive to the restrict, his tempo was extra within the ballpark of the place it ought to be, and customarily his suggestion was that issues made much more sense.
Then got here the French Grand Prix, the place Latifi had the improve package deal as effectively. And although Albon made it via to Q2, whereas Latifi was slowest, that was exaggerated by the wind circumstances that made the Williams notably unpredictable in qualifying and Latifi having to drive all weekend with a barely offset steering wheel.
The hole was nonetheless smaller than regular, although, and will have been higher – even when Latifi’s declare he would have gone eight tenths quicker appears extraordinarily optimistic.
Paul Ricard is a monotonous race within the midfield so it’s onerous to guage his efficiency though Latifi finally had his race ruined by a conflict with Kevin Magnussen that was barely clumsy. It didn’t deny Latifi a superb end result but it surely additionally did not dent his optimism afterwards.
“It’s a disgrace, I really feel our tempo was truly fairly robust, we have been simply out of place, operating behind vehicles that we have been fairly a bit faster than,” mentioned Latifi.
“Which is good as a result of I haven’t raced many of those vehicles all yr. It was the primary race seeing vehicles different [than Albon].
“I used to be getting fed the tempo of Alex in entrance of me, caught behind vehicles, hurting my tyres, and I used to be faster, I assumed I had way more tempo if I used to be the one in entrance.
“It’s a disgrace that we have been that far again, we should always have certified a lot increased than we did.
“I do know we’d have completed a really related time had there not been some points in qualifying. So once more, not half a second or six, seven tenths off anymore.
“Within the race, I felt I used to be the faster automotive primarily based off the tempo I used to be being fed. The tempo within the earlier races as effectively, taking the improve out, it’s the place it must be.”
Latifi’s F1 future stays unsure as Williams, frankly, has extra fascinating choices for 2023. He has been a stable operator and widespread staff member for 3 seasons however wanted to make a step this yr to increase his keep and, to date, the efficiency and outcomes have undermined that trigger.
Whether or not a burst of excellent type can save his profession, solely these inside Williams know for positive. If nothing else, not less than Latifi appears to be able the place he can provide a more true account of himself. Whereas he has by no means been a world champion within the making he has appeared worse this season than he actually is.
“The start of the season was extraordinarily bizarre,” mentioned Latifi.
“We have to perceive why however I’ve modified nothing. I didn’t swiftly change as a driver from sooner or later to the following.
“We modified one huge factor [the chassis] and the tempo is magically there.
“And even no matter Alex, I’m racing vehicles that I haven’t been racing all yr and [in France] I used to be extra aggressive than numerous them.
“It brings confidence, particularly when there’s numerous query marks for the primary eight or so races.”