Some expected a Red Bull or AlphaTauri to provoke a safety car late in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to help Verstappen, but in the end it was a Mercedes-powered driver, Nicholas Latifi, who did.
The Canadian crashed into the turn 14 guardrails with five laps to go, prompting the exit of the Safety Car, final controversy and, ultimately, indirectly, Max Verstappen’s world championship title. If Timo Glock is inextricably linked to Lewis Hamilton’s title in 2008, that unwanted spotlight could also fall to Latifi in the future.
“That was never my intention and I can only apologize for stepping in and creating that possibility,” the Williams driver said after the race. “I just made a mistake.”
Latifi’s accident occurred after a duel with Mick Schumacher at turn 9: “I had trouble overtaking him. He pushed me off the track a bit, but that’s part of racing,” said the Canadian without blaming his rival.
“That incident got my tires dirty, and that’s exactly where the two Formula 2 accidents took place,” referring to the feature race in the lower category, when Jack Doohan and Liam Lawson went off the track into that corner and were unable to keep their cars on the line at the next right hander.
Latifi, for his part, was able to keep his car under control, “but I just didn’t have grip in the following corners, especially where I went off,” he explained.
At turn 14, the Williams driver spun and collided with the rear. “The speed wasn’t that high so I was able to get out okay,” said the Canadian who had similarly lost the car on Friday at the previous corner. “For me, that had been a difficult corner all weekend. And then with the tires and the dirty air, I made a mistake.
At the time, Latifi was not aware that he was going to intervene in the fight for the world championship in this way: “I did not know about the situation at the front of the race until then. Of course it was never my intention to influence that fight, but I made a mistake and ruined my own career.
To finish, Wiliams said that he had no preference between Verstappen and Hamilton: “I have no preference as to who should win.”