Nicholas: “I wanted more from Monaco”

Nicholas Latifi was a points winner in both races at the fourth round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship in Monaco this weekend, but he left the Principality frustrated not to have achieved more.

The 22-year-old Canadian proved he had race-leading pace by setting second quickest time during Thursday’s Practice.

But his chances of battling with the front-runners in both races were knocked by an incident-filled Qualifying session that left him 18th on the grid for Friday’s Feature Race at a track where overtaking is almost impossible.

A battling performance enabled Nicholas to progress to P9, and claim two points, while another fight back on Saturday, this time from an early puncture, netted another point for P8 and a further two for setting the fastest lap of the race. But considering his pace, and his liking for street circuits, it’s a weekend Nicholas is keen to put behind him.

“It’s been one of those weekends,” he acknowledged. “Five points is definitely not what I wanted here, we had the potential for much more. It turned out to be a tough weekend, and most of that stems from my mistakes in Qualifying.”

Pre Qualifying, the omens had looked good, and Nicholas was in confident form. “The goal was to start off strong in Practice and I felt comfortable right away,” he said. “I was able to build the pace nicely, every time I was free of traffic I was setting purple sectors. Finishing P2 was confidence inspiring.

“We made a few adjustments before Qualifying and for some reason I didn’t feel as comfortable with the car. I just didn’t feel it like I had in Practice. I made two big mistakes in both my push laps – almost ending up in the wall on both occasions. A red flag at the end meant I had no time for a third run.”

Starting the Feature Race from the back of the grid, Nicholas faced a huge challenge if he was to make up ground on the notoriously tight and twisty circuit.

“We chose the prime option tyre strategy, planning to stay out as long as possible, hoping for a safety car,” he explained. “I managed my tyres well, and 35 laps in I was setting good times relative to everyone else on new tyres.

“Given the circumstances, P9 was the best result we could have achieved. One more position though, and a pole for Saturday, could have changed the outcome of the whole weekend.”

Nicholas got off to another strong start in Saturday’s Sprint Race. Leaving the line from P9, he made up one position immediately and tried for a second overtake later in the opening lap.

“I made a move on Roberto Merhi on the outside at the hairpin because I could see he was blocked on the inside,” Nicholas explained, “For me the move was done, I completed it cleanly, left him plenty of room, but it seemed he didn’t want to give it up and he opened the wheel to squeeze me out. His front wing hit my front-left tyre and it punctured.

“I pitted for a pair of the worn tyres we used on Friday. I had lots of understeer, but I managed things as best as I could, hoping that events would happen up ahead and I could make up places.”

With 10 laps to go, Nicholas pitted again for a set of supersofts. “It was a chance to pick up a couple of points for a fastest lap,” he said. “I got the quickest lap, then two cars crashed out and I was P10 and eligible for the points. Then another two crashed and that was P8.”

“Okay, three points today is some consolation but I was feeling quite good with the car in the Sprint race and I know it could have been a better weekend.

“The positives were that I was quick in Practice, and I had good starts in both races. I know I was capable of doing a decent Qualifying, but I couldn’t put it together when it mattered.”

Nicholas has a change of car now as he prepares to make his Formula One FP1 session debut with the Sahara Force India F1 Team at next month’s Canadian Grand Prix. He will resume his F2 campaign at Circuit Paul Ricard in France from 22 – 24 June.

Nicholas said: “I’m very excited about the FP1 session at my home Grand Prix. It will be good to change gear from F2 after a difficult start to the year. I look forward to restarting my season at the next round in Paul Ricard.”

Nicholas’s bid for FIA Formula 2 Championship success is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.

Nicholas Latifi set to take on the streets of Monaco

Canada’s Nicholas Latifi is relishing the chance to take on the most famous race track in the world this week, when the FIA Formula 2 Championship returns to the iconic Circuit de Monaco [24 – 26 May].

The 3.337km street circuit is one of the most technical in the F2 calendar, and is notorious for its sharp corners and narrow, Armco barrier-lined track that makes overtaking almost impossible.

The circuit’s tight nature calls for precision driving, while top speeds of more than 260kph last year call for maximum commitment. For 22-year-old Nicholas, it’s a challenge he always looks forward to.

“Street tracks are some of my favourites and it’s always exciting to be going to Monaco, it’s one of the special events of the year,” he said.

“You get an extra adrenaline rush from driving between the walls – knowing that if you do make a mistake you’re going to be punished for it. And this is Monaco. It has the history and an atmosphere unlike any other race.”

A fortnight after a difficult round in Barcelona, Nicholas is targeting solid points-winning results in both Friday’s Feature Race and Saturday’s Sprint Race.

Nicholas said: “I missed the chance to score useful points in Barcelona, so my goal is to have a clean weekend, with no mistakes from my side, and hopefully a bit of luck. I think I’m due some. At street races, and Monaco in particular, you need to have a bit of luck on your side.

“You also have to put yourself in the right place to be able to capitalise on the opportunities that come to you because the races are never straightforward. Things always happen in Monaco; safety cars, people making mistakes. I have to keep my nose clean but at the same time be quick enough to be near the front and able to react.”

With overtaking so difficult in Monaco, Qualifying is arguably more critical than at any other track and Nicholas is hoping to get his DAMS Racing machine well placed during Thursday afternoon’s sessions.

“The field is split into two groups for Qualifying because the track is so short. It’s sometimes more beneficial to be in the second group because there will be more rubber on the track. Either way, Qualifying is really important. To do well in Monaco you need a good starting position,” he said.

Nicholas has been kept busy since the last F2 round with testing and simulator work for the Sahara Force India F1 Team. In his role as Reserve and Test driver, Nicholas drove the squad’s VJM11 car for 107 laps of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya at the F1 in-season test. He later drove the car for a second day at a Pirelli test, racking up a total of more than 1000km at the wheel.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better first test with the team,” Nicholas explained. “There were no problems, the run plan went smoothly and I got maximum track time, which is so important when learning a new car and team. At the end of the day I also got to do some performance runs on the hyper-soft tyre, which was great fun.”

“The Pirelli test on the second day was a different format, and called for me to give detailed feedback on different sets of tyres. It was an opportunity to get more mileage under my belt in a controlled environment and to really get comfortable in the car. As preparation for my Free Practice session in Montreal at the Canadian Prix next month it was exactly what I needed.”

Nicholas’s Monaco race weekend begins on Thursday 24 May with Practice [0915hrs] and Qualifying [1320 / 1344hrs]. Friday’s 42-lap Feature Race starts at 1130hrs, followed by Saturday’s 30-lap Sprint Race at 1720hrs.

Nicholas’s bid for FIA Formula 2 Championship success is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.

First Sahara Force India F1 test performance pleases Nicholas

Nicholas Latifi has declared his maiden test with the Sahara Force India F1 Team a success after completing 107 laps at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya today.

The 21-year-old was recruited as the team’s third driver at the beginning of the year and his on-track outing during day one of F1’s Barcelona in-season test was his first opportunity to get to grips with the team’s VJM11 car.

The test was a crucial part of Nicholas’s build up to his programme of Friday free practice outings with Sahara Force India, starting at next month’s Canadian Grand Prix (8-10 June).

Nicholas enjoyed an encouraging first day in the VJM11 cockpit, completing 107 laps and clocking up 498 kilometres of running. His best lap time of 1:18.530 was good enough to place him fifth fastest out of 13 drivers.

“It was a very good first day on track with the team and I finally had the chance to put into practice a lot of the procedures and processes that I had learned in the simulator,” Nicholas said.

“I’m pleased with how the day went; we ran smoothly with no big dramas. We completed lots of laps. I’m glad I could help the team with their testing programme and I am looking forward to being back in the simulator with this new knowledge of how the car behaves on track.”

Tom McCullough, Sahara Force India’s Chief Race Engineer, was happy with Nicholas’s first on-track showing, adding that the Canadian helped the team achieve its main objectives during the test.

He said: “It was a very solid performance by Nicholas on his first day in the car. Our programme included a series of aero test items with extra instrumentation on the car in the early part of the day, which allowed him to get up to speed with how we operate and with understanding the VJM11.

“Nicholas settled in well with the team from an operational point of view and was on top of the various switches and procedures straight away after the simulator work he did earlier in the season.

“We were able to get straight to the various test items and completed the main objectives. It was a good day and a great start to our on-track relationship with Nicholas.”

Nicholas will continue his driving duties in Barcelona tomorrow (Wednesday) when he takes part in a Pirelli tyre test to help the manufacturer develop its F1 rubber.

Nicholas Latifi rues missed opportunity in Spain

Nicholas Latifi said his Formula Two race weekend in Barcelona was “a missed opportunity” after a start line stall effectively ruined his chances of success at the championship’s third round.

The 22-year-old Canadian was one of the pace-setters at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in 2017 and carried the same speed into this year’s race weekend. After qualifying P6 for Saturday’s Feature Race, he appeared well positioned to fight at the front once again.

But when the lights went out, the engine in Nicholas’s car stalled. And by the time it was restarted and he got underway, Nicholas trailed the lead by almost two minutes.

He fought hard nonetheless, recording the fastest lap of the race en route to a P14 finish. But compared to his 20 point haul at last month’s round in Baku, it was a bitterly disappointing outcome.

“The start of the Feature Race pretty much ruined the whole weekend,” Nicholas acknowledged. “It’s a big missed opportunity because it put me way out of position for the second race too – and Barcelona is a very difficult track to make up positions.”

Nicholas impressed with his starting form in Baku, where in the Sprint Race he leapt from P4 into the lead by the first corner. But the introduction in Spain of a clutch software upgrade to the whole F2 field had knock-on implications to his DAMS Racing machine.

“F2 introduced new software to try and improve the clutch action,” Nicholas explained. “But in combination with the mapping adjustments we had made already, based on how the clutch was behaving on previous rounds, it ended up doing the opposite.

“The car just didn’t react as it should have. I was releasing the clutch very slowly, almost all the way to the end of the paddle, and the car still wasn’t moving. Then, right at the end, in the last millimetre, it came in at once. There was nothing I could have done to avoid that.

“It was a big shame. When I got going I had good pace, but I needed a safety car to have any chance of catching up – and unfortunately this time we had only VSC periods.”

Nicholas started Sunday’s Sprint Race from P14, with six places to make up if he was to salvage any points.

“There was a difficult mix of damp and dry conditions at the beginning, so I made quite a conservative start to be safe,” Nicholas explained. “The pace was okay, I kept out of trouble and got up to P8. But the track dried more quickly that I had expected and with 10 laps to go I had no tyres left. I did all I could to keep the position – it’s probably the hardest point I’ve had to work for in my driving career.”

Nicholas will remain in Barcelona this week for his first appearance as Sahara Force India Formula One team’s Reserve and Test Driver. He will drive this season’s VJM11 car at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Tuesday and Wednesday (15 and 16 May).

Nicholas will return to F2 competition at round four when the series visits the iconic Circuit de Monaco (24-26 May). His F2 campaign in 2018 is supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.

Nicholas Latifi keen to build F2 momentum

After a podium finish at the previous round in Baku, Nicholas Latifi heads to this week’s third round of the FIA Formula Two Championship in Spain keen to continue his front-running form.

The 22-year-old DAMS Racing driver ignited his title challenge with a haul of 20 points in Azerbaijan late last month, and hopes to add to that when the series returns to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – scene of a race-leading performance from Nicholas in 2017.

“The main thing on my mind this weekend is to continue to build the momentum we got from Baku. It’s still very early in the championship, so the key is to keep scoring big points consistently,” the Canadian said.

“Barcelona is a track where I have gone well in the past and it’s a circuit I know well. But to get a good result this time I need to sort out my Friday running which has been the most problematic aspect of the first two races. After my qualifying issues in Baku I managed to make up a lot of places, but Barcelona is not a track where you want be starting from the back.

“We have to hit the ground running from free practice – try and get into a rhythm from the first lap. After that, a top-five time in qualifying would make it much easier to go for the win or fight for podiums.”

Known for its high number of fast corners, Barcelona’s 4.655km circuit was notorious for its abrasive surface which contributed to high tyre degradation. However, fresh asphalt was laid earlier this year that is much smoother and offers more grip with less wear.

“That’s probably going to be the biggest difference we’ll face this year,” Nicholas explained. “As well as that, Pirelli has gone one step softer with the tyres, so we have medium and soft compound options, instead of the hard and softs from 2017. I expect that should balance things out.”

Nicholas dominated last year’s 26-lap Sprint Race in Spain but was left ruing a late off-track excursion that cost him an almost-certain victory. This time, he is eager to put his race-leading experience to good use.

“Up to now my race pace on Saturday and Sunday has been good, although there are always things to improve. We weren’t the fastest in Baku, but that was a very specific track, and having analysed the data we have some good ideas why we lost out to the pace of a couple of cars,” he said.

“As usual, I expect the starts will be very important. What I did in the Baku Sprint Race worked well, but I know it won’t be easy to replicate. After 14 cars have stalled from the first four races, you can guess how tricky these cars are to get off the line.”

Nicholas’s race weekend begins on Friday 11 May with Practice [1300hrs] and Qualifying [1655hrs]. Saturday’s 37-lap Feature Race starts at 1640hrs, followed by Sunday’s 26-lap Sprint Race at 1130hrs.

Nicholas’s bid for FIA Formula 2 Championship success is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.

Nicholas to make test debut with Sahara Force India F1

Nicholas Latifi will make his first appearance as Sahara Force India Formula One team’s Reserve and Test Driver on 15 and 16 May, driving this season’s VJM11 car at the Barcelona test following the Spanish Grand Prix.

The test is the first opportunity for Nicholas to work with the team trackside ahead of his Friday free practice programme, which begins at next month’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Nicholas will drive in Spain on the Tuesday after the race, before development driver, Nikita Mazepin, takes over on the Wednesday.

Alongside the team’s normal testing duties, a second VJM11 will be run at the test in support of Pirelli’s 2018 tyre testing programme and Nicholas will drive this car on Wednesday.

Nicholas said: “I am really looking forward to getting my on-track life at Force India started. I was very disappointed having to miss my chance in pre-season testing through illness, but I am now fully fit and recovered and I can’t wait to go.

“Force India has a great history of giving young drivers an opportunity and I want to help the team develop and push forward in the midfield battle. This test is a very important step ahead of my first Free Practice outing in Canada and I am grateful to the team for all the support they’re giving me.

“There is so much I can learn to develop into a better driver and I am keen to absorb as much information as possible working with our engineers. I am on a high after my podium in Baku [in F2] last weekend, I am very pleased with how things are going and I want to build on that.”