Jack Aitken says he has mixed emotions about his maiden Formula 1 Grand Prix, with the Anglo-Korean driver finishing seventeenth at the chequered flag at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday.
The Williams Racing driver made few mistakes throughout his first ever race at the highest level, but one big mistake was his spin at the final corner that saw him hit the barriers and damage his front wing.
Despite the mistake, he felt he made a lot of progress in such a small amount of time after being drafted in to replace Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team-bound George Russell just a few days prior to the Sakhir Grand Prix.
“I have mixed emotions and I am a bit gutted by the mistake, I think we were doing a pretty good job up until then,” said Aitken. “I was trying to get up to speed and follow the guys through in front of me.
“We were on the option tyre which was working out pretty well for us. I have learnt a lot this weekend, and there are a lot of positives to take away.
“The single lap pace came on a really long way in such a short space of time, and our race pace was good as well. If I do step in again next weekend, I will be looking to do an even better job.”
Team-mate Nicholas Latifi had one of his strongest performances of the season but was forced to retire late in the day with a suspected oil leak on his FW43.
He had been as high as thirteenth and was feeling comfortable in a race that was unpredictable almost from start to finish, so to retire was so frustrating for the Canadian.
“We think it was a suspected oil leak, so I was told to stop the car right away,” said Latifi. “It is obviously disappointing as we were running a strong race up until then in P13. We were looking quite comfortable; we still had a lot of the race to go and you never know what is going to happen.
“It is frustrating but the reliability has been pretty strong, and we have barely had any issues this season. I can’t fault anyone; it is just a shame but that is motorsport sometimes.”
“Although our final result was disappointing, there are positives to take away” – Dave Robson
Dave Robson, the Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams, says Latifi had been driving ‘very well’ up until his retirement from the race, and he apologised the Canadian after he was forced to retire.
“Until Nicholas had to retire with a suspected oil leak, he was driving very well and was able to manage comfortably the gaps to the Alfa Romeo and Haas cars and for a while he was in a race with Vettel, following a slow Ferrari pitstop,” said Robson.
“We are currently investigating the cause of his issue and we apologise to Nicholas for the retirement.”
Robson also felt Aitken was driving well both before and after his crash, with the incident at the final turn catching his mechanics out after they were not expecting him to pit when he did with the damage he had.
“Jack was driving very well and was able to stay ahead of [Kimi] Räikkönen whilst chasing down [Kevin] Magnussen,” said Robson. “Unfortunately, in doing so he span the car at the last corner, damaging the front wing.
“Fortunately, he was able to recover straight to the pit lane, and although his arrival caught us a little by surprise, the crew were able to service his car and get him back into the race. His pace in the final stint was good and he was able to regain position over [Pietro] Fittipaldi and again chase down Magnussen.
“Although our final result was disappointing, there are positives to take away with Nicholas showing good pace throughout and Jack completing his first F1 race. He learned a lot today, raced well and gained a lot of race operational experience, all of which will serve him well in the future.”