Nicholas Latifi criticises FIA stewards for handling of Zhou Guanyu collision

Michelle Foster
Nicholas Latifi puts on his helmet. Monza September 2022

Williams driver Nicholas Latifi puts on his helmet. Monza September 2022

Nicholas Latifi is frustrated by his five-place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix, the driver adamant he did everything right except leave a car space for Zhou Guanyu in Singapore.

But, he says, that’s because he didn’t know he was there as the Alfa Romeo was in his blind spot.

On the back of the news that this season will be his last on the Formula 1 grid, Latifi’s hopes of showing the paddock he has something to give ended with a bang on lap 7 in Singapore.

The Canadian pulled across the nose of Zhou’s Alfa Romeo into Turn 5, putting both drivers out of the race.

The stewards announced even before the end of the grand prix that he had a five-place grid penalty for the next race, Japan, and was also hit with two penalty points.

While Latifi concedes he didn’t leave a car’s width, he says Zhou was in his blind spot and that the Chinese driver should have been “more aware” of that.

“The rule is obviously leave the car’s space, which I obviously didn’t,” he told Autosport. “I looked at the replay, that line where I was exiting wide from Turn 3 and then cutting back to the braking, I was doing that every other lap of the race.

“And the problem was he was driving perfectly in my blind spot at the exit. I did look both directions in the mirrors, you see it on my onboard, I look left, I look right, and I didn’t see him.

“If I don’t see where he is, I just take my normal line. So yes, if you’re going based off that rule, leaving the space, I understand why they gave me a penalty.

“The only thing is I think Zhou should have been more aware of that, he knows there’s a blind spot with these cars. He was very much on the inside of me, perfectly in the blind spot.

“So again, I didn’t pick an erratic line, that’s the line I was always taking.”

For Zhou’s part, he called the crash “unnecessary”, adding that Latifi “knew I was always going to be there because he missed the apex into Turn 3”.

Latifi’s annoyance with his penalty is not so much that he got one but that it is usually a “three-place penalty” and the stewards issued it before even speaking with him.

“I’m not so frustrated about the penalty even if they arrive at that,” he said, “but the fact that they didn’t want to speak about it. And is it the right penalty?

“Because they gave me a five-place penalty, which is what they gave [Valtteri] Bottas for going bowling with other cars in Hungary last year, which is far worse than a one-on-one crash.

“Anytime there’s been a one-on-one crash it’s a three-place penalty.”

He added: “I briefly went to see the stewards just because they made the decision without talking to the drivers, which I found a bit strange.

“Especially because both of us were out of the race and there was no rush to make the decision, and normally when that happens they always speak to both drivers.

“I just wanted to have a talk to them about taking these things into consideration. The drivers are always complaining about consistency. Arrive at the same conclusion and penalise me that’s fine, but why not at least speak to both drivers like you do 99% of other instances?

“They were in the midst of the whatever happened with Red Bull. So I didn’t fully have the time to show them the video and whatnot. Again, they should have called us officially to the stewards and spoken to both of us. And obviously that wasn’t the case.”