Nicholas Latifi is determined to get back on the GP2 points trail in Austria

An impressive podium finisher at the opening GP2 round in Barcelona, Nicholas jumped to eighth in the drivers’ standings before two disappointing events at Barcelona and Baku denied him the opportunity to add to his points tally.

Now, just two weeks after returning from Azerbaijan, the 21-year-old is eager to return to form in Austria – on a track he knows very well.

“I’m feeling good and raring to get going again,” he said. “Whenever I have a bad weekend the one thing I want to do is get back in the car and race again. The quicker you switch your focus the quicker you move on.

“I think I’ve tackled the Red Bull Ring every year I’ve been racing cars; all three years in Formula 3 and a lot of test days. It’s a track I like a lot. I’ve had some exciting races there, some fantastic battles and some good results too so I’m looking forward to getting back.

“I like the layout of the track, it’s great for racing and provides good opportunities for overtaking. The characteristics of the road itself mean tyre management isn’t usually such an issue and I think GP2 this weekend will be about as close as we get to flat-out racing.”

A further boost for Nicholas, who is competing in his first full GP2 season and is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina, will be the expertise of his French-based DAMS team that has a strong track record in Austria and claimed a podium in last year’s GP2 feature race.

“The team knows the track well and they were very competitive there last year – there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be this year. After the last couple of race weekends the objective is to score points in both races. And for sure the expectations of the team are higher because of how well they did there last year,” Nicholas explained.

“Personally, I want to end the four-race points drought, especially because this month is so crucial with four race weekends in five weeks and about 50 percent of the season back-to-back. A solid result in Austria will set the tone for the upcoming races. I want to start off positively, work on my consistency and carry some momentum throughout all those races.”

Since Baku, Nicholas has been working hard both physically and mentally to ensure he is ready to give his best performance this weekend.

He said: “Obviously Baku was a weekend where we had some issues, so back at DAMS we sat down to analyse what went wrong. I want to learn something from each weekend and as an all-new challenge there was a lot for me and the team to take away from Baku.

“After that we switched to Austria preparations, discussing the track, analysing the team’s performance last year and doing some simulator work. I feel ready for this weekend.”

Nicholas looks to the future for change in GP2 fortunes

Nicholas, who is competing in his first full GP2 season and was a podium finisher at the opening GP2 round in Barcelona earlier this season, had to overcome a sequence of setbacks on Baku’s street circuit as he tried to add to his haul of 20 championship points.

He lined up in P14 for Saturday’s main race after being denied the chance to set what would have been a top-six time during qualifying. “My DRS wasn’t activated on my flying lap because there were yellow flags shown in Turn Three,” he explained. “That was unfortunate because our cars were running a lot of downforce and the DRS would have had a massive effect.”

Nicholas, who is proudly sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina during 2016, then suffered a second setback when the main race got underway. As the leading pack jostled for position at Turn One, a number of cars made contact and spun. Nicholas, who was attempting to avoid the carnage, was hit twice and forced off the track.

He said: “The first corner entry is blind because of where the pit wall is and that meant I couldn’t see the accident unfolding. I was hit by two cars – one on the front wheel and one on the back – and that forced me off. I had a bit of damage, but it was nothing terminal. When I tried to get going again I got stuck between gears and the engine stalled.”

Failing to finish the first race meant Nicholas had to start from P22 in today’s sprint encounter. But with both of the DAMS cars retiring on the first lap on Saturday, the French team was unable to gather a lot of data that its drivers could use to smooth their passage in today’s race.

“We were at a bit of a disadvantage because Baku is a new track and neither of the team’s cars made it past the first corner yesterday,” Nicholas said. “That meant we didn’t know what the trend would be in terms of tyre degradation, balance and handling during the sprint race. We had some data from qualifying, but quali and a race are very different.”

Nicholas did manage to climb as high as P7 during the sprint race that was punctuated by numerous accidents and safety car periods but he eventually dropped back to finish in P13 as the performance of his car’s tyres suffered.

It was a disappointing end to a frustrating weekend for Nicholas and he’s already turned his attention to the next round of the GP2 Series in Austria in a fortnight.

He said: “We’re going to analyse where things went wrong this weekend and then focus on getting them right for the Red Bull Ring. The month of July is a critical stage in the season because we have four races. A good performance in Austria will hopefully set the tone for a good month and that’s where my attention is now.”

Nicholas expects everything to be equal for Baku GP2 battle

Baku is the latest destination to be added to the Formula One and GP2 calendars in 2016 and the 3.7-mile street circuit that takes in parts of the medieval city, a contemporary skyline and views across the Caspian Sea, will present a new challenge for all of the teams and drivers in the paddock.

For DAMS Racing driver, Nicholas, this weekend is a great opportunity to build on his eighth place in the GP2 drivers’ championship and to try and re-establish some momentum after a frustrating couple of races in Monaco last month.

“My initial impressions of the track from my simulator work at the DAMS factory is that it’s a very fast circuit in terms of the average speed and the characteristics are most similar to Macau – except it’s a track designed for F1 and GP2 cars,” he says. “It’s the first year that anyone will have raced there and that’s something that I’m really excited about.

“Historically, getting results in GP2 has often come down to how much experience you have. If you have raced on a certain track before, you generally know what to expect. But Baku is a clean slate for everyone and I like that. This is my first full season in the championship and I’m expecting everything to be equal this weekend.”

Twenty-year-old Nicholas – who is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2016 – is a big fan of street circuits and he believes the layout of the Baku track should make for an exciting spectacle when the GP2 field does battle in two separate races; the first feature race on Saturday and a second shorter race on Sunday.

“The track looks a lot of fun,” he says. “The first half of the lap has a lot of 90-degree corners and long straights and then it gets narrow and tight up the hill and around the medieval tower. Overtaking can be a problem on a lot of street circuits but that shouldn’t be a problem in Baku. The straights are really wide and long.

“I’m generally quite good at adapting to new tracks so I’m looking forward to continuing my learning in Baku. I think I showed in Monaco that we can have decent pace on a street circuit in practice and qualifying, so I don’t see any reason why we can’t repeat that level of performance this weekend.”