Nicholas Latifi is celebrating his first points finish of the season after securing a P9 finish following a solid drive that was matched by a great strategy to fire him up the order.
As had threatened all weekend, rain fell before racing got underway, but unlike last week in Singapore, the Japanese Grand Prix got started on time.
Sadly for Alex, his race would not last the length of the first lap as, despite a blistering start, he suffered a damaged radiator and subsequently lost water pressure after slight contact with Kevin Magnussen in a chaotic opening tour of Suzuka.
With conditions worsening and barrier repairs required following Carlos Sainz’s crash, the race was red flagged and a two-hour wait to restart followed.
Nicky had kept things clean on his first lap, successfully navigating Zhou Guanyu who spun immediately in front of him and found himself P15 on the restart.
A rolling start was issued a few laps later and we were soon racing against the closing three-hour window.
After one full lap of racing conditions, where the only issue facing drivers was visibility in the spray, the call was made to bring Nicky in to fit intermediates and put him back out in clean air.
It was a superb call, and within two laps, Nicky found himself well inside the top 10 everyone else followed suit.
In slippery conditions, Nicky drove superbly and only lost places to George Russell and Fernando Alonso, the latter pitting second time late on.
The Canadian kept Lando Norris behind him all the way to the chequered flag and, after 28 laps of racing, our No6 was awarded a well-deserved two points for his finishing position.
How we finished at the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix
“The beginning was quite tricky with the red flag and the delays,” Nicky explained after the race, continuing: “We made the right decision to pit straight away for the Inters which was critical in jumping the cars ahead of us.
“I really struggled at the end with the front tyres but I’m extremely happy to hold on and get my first points of the season.
“Overall, I’m really happy for the team and it’s a nice morale boost.”
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Alex Albon was understandably disappointed for his race to be over so soon, sharing: “It’s definitely a shame as I felt like today was a chance to maybe score some points.
“I actually had a very good start and was really pleased with it but then with the visibility being so poor, I couldn’t see the car next to me; I couldn’t even see the track.
“I had a light touch with Kevin [Magnussen] but where we hit it touched the radiator, we lost water pressure and it was leaking, so we had to stop the car.
“It was extremely dangerous out there and so bad in terms of visibility, in fact, it’s the worst I’ve ever experienced in my career so far.
“We are driving over 200kph in that weather and, whatever you are seeing on external or onboard cameras, it’s a hundred times worse from the cockpit.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, summarised the view from the pit wall on a rollercoaster day in Suzuka: “Today was hectic and enjoyable, and in the end provided a very good race.
“Track conditions were fine at the initial race start but the visibility made it incredibly difficult for all but the leader. Both Alex and Nicholas had excellent starts and made places initially but were unable to capitalise fully due to poor visibility at T1.
“Alex was unfortunate to suffer contact from the Haas, which damaged the radiator and forced him to retire.
“When the race finally restarted, Nicky did an excellent job in tricky conditions. He was part of the decision to make the early switch to intermediates and this paid handsomely as he soon got into a potential points-scoring position.
“Although [George] Russell was able to overtake, Nicky had the measure of the McLarens and managed his car really well to collect his first points of the season.
“It was great to be back in Suzuka to race at this superb circuit. As a team, we had some ups and downs over the course of the weekend, but we fought hard today and gave both drivers a good package for the conditions.
“It's disappointing that Alex was prevented from capitalising but great for Nicky and his team to score some points.”
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