Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, and Williams driver Nicholas Latifi have both put the 2021 season in the past, and are fully focused on the highly anticipated 2022 season.
Latifi was inadvertently thrown into the limelight during the closing stages of the Abu Dhabi GP when a fierce battle with Haas’s Mick Schumacher for second-to-last position ended prematurely with an unlucky accident for the Canadian, sliding into the armco barrier at slow speed and bringing out the safety car.
The infamous fast-tracking of the safety car-to-green flag transition by the FIA’s Race Director Michael Masi ultimately led to Max Verstappen clinching the title from a distraught Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team.
The Williams driver went on to receive a raft of abhorrent online abuse, a fact that he revealed in a statement posted to his social media later on in December last year. Speaking to Sky Sports at an awards ceremony, Latifi notes how the abuse got to him post-Abu Dhabi.
“I already feel that [Abu Dhabi] is kind of behind me, and yeah it’s the past, and it was obviously a very tricky few days with everything going on afterwards, but it’s part of the sport and it was kind of what I expected to happen as I mentioned in the post,” he said.
“But I’m kind of past it now and for sure I guess once the season picks up it gives something more important for people to talk about and focus on, but yeah it’s long in the past for me now.”
Red Bull’s Horner, meanwhile, spoke on the need from newly-appointed FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem for a simplification of the sporting rules and a lightening of the workload placed on the race director.
This comes in anticipation of the result of the FIA’s investigation, which got underway in early January and involved various consultations with both drivers and teams who participated in the season finale. The conclusions will first be presented at an F1 Commission meeting this month, and then officially announced at March’s World Motor Sport Council meeting prior to the first race in Bahrain – also thought to be when the new Peter Bayer-led restructure of the FIA single seater division will be finalised.
“The new President has put a key focus on this and I think there’s a big drive to make sure the race director has better support,” reassures Horner. “The tools that we have at our disposal are far in advance of that of Michael [Masi] and his team so I think there’s been a lot of focus on that over the winter and I think you’ll see that [race director] role better supported, which will hopefully enable decisions to be easier and swifter, but I think we also need to look at the regulations to simplify some of those as well.”
When asked if there’d be any “downer” on the championship win for the Red Bull team, Horner remarked: “Well not really because the only ones who’ve been talking about it have been you guys, so we thoroughly enjoyed getting that championship victory and obviously the focus is now on 2022, ‘21 is already history but we’re excited about the season ahead.”
Red Bull will be the second team to launch their new car for the 2022 season on February 9, after Haas unveiled their livery on a lightly developed 2022 chassis. Williams, though, are yet to announce a launch date for their car.
The story was written by Danny Herbert
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