F1 team Williams release Nicholas Latifi at the end of the season

WANTAGE, England (AP) – Formula 1 team Williams will release Toronto driver Nicholas Latifi when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Williams made the announcement on Friday without saying who will replace 27-year-old Latifi, whose crash at last season’s season-closing Abu Dhabi GP led to a chaotic one-lap restart with Max Verstappen overtaking Lewis Hamilton to win the title.

Latifi has yet to score a point this season.

He was easily outpaced by Nyck De Vries, who came in for Alex Albon two weeks ago at the Italian Grand Prix and finished ninth for two points.

Latifi is in his third season with Williams and his best result was seventh in the Hungarian GP last year.

“Although together we did not achieve the results we hoped for, it has been a fantastic journey. Getting those first points in Hungary last year was a moment I will never forget,” said Latifi. “I am moving into the next chapter of my career with special memories of my time with this dedicated team. I know none of us will stop doing everything we can until the end of the season.”

Latifi was a popular but error-prone driver, who took the spotlight at last year’s Abu Dhabi GP.

Hamilton was driving to victory and an all-time record eighth F1 title when Latifi crashed his Williams car into a wall with just a few laps to go.

It led to a safety car, then a one-lap restart, and a belated drama as Verstappen overtook Hamilton on new tires to win the world title at one of the most controversial moments in F1 history.

Latifi faced abuse on social networks and even death threats. He hired a bodyguard on a trip to London with his girlfriend.

Williams team principal Jost Capito praised Latifi’s dedication to his craft.

“On behalf of the entire team, I would like to say a huge thank you to Nicholas for his three years of hard work at Williams,” said Capito. “He is a great team player who has a great attitude towards his colleagues and work and he is loved and respected throughout the company. Our time together is now coming to an end, but I know he will do everything he can to get the most out of us together.”

Latifi’s departure could open the door for De Vries to get the seat next to Albon for 2023 and beyond, with Albon tied to a multi-year deal.

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