Nicholas Latifi stretches his F2 points run in French thriller

Nicholas Latifi extended his run of points-scoring finishes in two action-packed FIA Formula 2 Championship races at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France this weekend.

The Canadian came away with P7 and P8, having also served notice of his potential by leading several laps of the Sprint Race, and by fighting back from near last to finish in the points in the Feature Race.

Nicholas started Sunday’s Sprint Race from P2 on the grid and made a blistering start to seize the lead.

“I was feeling quite confident, having made some changes to the car’s set-up after the previous day’s Feature Race,” said the DAMS Racing driver. “I got into the lead, but then I struggled to have enough grip to pull away.”

He led the opening four laps, but once the chasing drivers were allowed to use the drag reduction system (DRS) to aid overtaking on the straights, Nicholas found it difficult to defend his position.

“The car was sliding quite a lot and if I tried to push harder, the tyres began to overheat. I didn’t have the pace to get out of the DRS activation zone, so it was a frustrating race,” said Nicholas, who eventually finished P8.

Earlier in the weekend he put in a stirring drive during Saturday’s Feature Race, which was held in challenging mixed weather conditions. Nicholas started from P10 on the grid but was hit from behind by another car as he braked for Turn Three.

“The contact put me out of position as we turned into the corner and I arrived quicker than I wanted to. I was on the wet kerb and the car just spun around,” the 22-year-old explained.

Having rejoined in P17, Nicholas excelled in the now-treacherous conditions to get as high as P7 within ten laps.

“It started to rain more heavily, but I love those low-grip conditions. I was able to match the pace of the leaders and carved through the pack. In that respect, it was an enjoyable race.

“However, then I got knocked off the track for a second time and lost ground again. That incident inflicted damage to my car and I began to struggle with understeer,” he said.

Nicholas finished P8, earning it with an inspired overtaking move on the final lap: “I enjoyed that battle, especially because I came out on top! Overall, it was a nice recovery drive considering I got hit twice during the race.”

Later, Nicholas was promoted to P7 in the results due to a disqualification and the results from Paul Ricard mean he’s now P11 in the series standings. His focus moves immediately to the Red Bull Ring next weekend (29 June – 1 July). Nicholas is optimistic about his chances, having finished second in the Feature Race there in 2017.

“As we go straight into another race weekend, I won’t be dwelling on this one,” he said. “I’m heading to the team’s workshop to do some analysis and preparation for Austria, where we’ll aim to come back stronger.”

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

Nicholas Latifi wants positive F2 outcome on French soil

Nicholas Latifi is targeting a point-scoring start to three back-to-back race weekends as the FIA Formula 2 Championship heads to France for round five this weekend (22-24 June).

The Canadian heads to Circuit Paul Ricard for just the second time in his career with the objective of putting all the ‘ingredients’ of a strong race weekend together after a tough start to 2018 with his DAMS Racing team.

“The way I see it, there are probably five ingredients for a strong race weekend,” he explained. “So far this year we’ve been ticking off four of them each time. The one that was missing – which has been different at every round – has been detrimental to the whole weekend.

“Paul Ricard is going to be about putting all the ingredients together and having a good weekend. I know we are capable of doing that, and the fact that this is the team’s home round makes me even more determined to give them something to celebrate.”

A month-long break in the F2 calendar, and the opportunity to take part in a Free Practice 1 session at the Canadian Grand Prix with Sahara Force India F1 Team, has given 22-year-old Nicholas the opportunity to reflect on his season to date.

“Even though on paper it hasn’t seemed so good, there have been quite a few positives and if they continue, and we put everything together on a race weekend, then the results will come,” he explained.

“Clearly, we have a fast car but for one reason or another we haven’t been getting the results we know we deserve. I’m looking to bounce back as we start this run of back-to-back races at Paul Ricard.

“I’m feeling quite confident and excited going into the week. I want to get my season back on track and reward the guys at DAMS for the effort they’ve been putting in.”

Having missed pre-season testing at the 5.8km track through illness in March, Nicholas’s last experience of the high-speed Paul Ricard circuit was in 2014 during his Formula Renault 3.5 campaign. Despite a long time away, he’s excited to experience the track again.

He said: “It’s a track I have limited experience of. I raced there once before but since then the track has been repaved and a few of the corners have changed. I haven’t driven it since they made those modifications.

“From what I know, it’s quite a fun track to drive. The lap is fast and flowing and with the enormous run offs and bright coloured surface it looks amazing.”

Nicholas’s 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship campaign is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.

Q&A – Nicholas reflects on his FP1 debut in Canada

With his Free Practice 1 (FP1) debut successfully completed at the Canadian Grand Prix, Nicholas has looked back at the experience of driving the Sahara Force India F1 Team’s VJM11 at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve last weekend.

Q: You completed 28 laps during FP1 at the Canadian Grand Prix. How was it driving the VJM11 for the first time at an official Grand Prix weekend?

A: “It was a great experience and it was a special feeling pulling out of the pit lane with a big smile on my face. There were more people in the stands compared to what I’m usually used to during a Friday practice [in Formula 2] but that’s one of the great things about Montreal. It’s definitely one of the busiest Fridays of the year and it was especially nice to see all the Canadian fans on my last lap with their flags waving to me.”

Q: What was your brief during the session from the Force India F1 Team – were you working on anything specific?

A: “The team was generous and kept it relatively simple for me. There was basically just a lot of aero running and gathering data by doing the laps I needed to do. In that regard, it was fairly straight forward. FP1’s are sessions that you always want to do more laps in but you only have two tyres for a 90-minute session.”

Q: The session clearly wasn’t about outright performance but you still got to drive on two different tyre compounds. How did the session work out in that regard?

A: “The team opted to start on the hyper soft tyre and then the second set of tyres was the ultra softs. With the first set of tyres you must give them back after 40 minutes, and as I was still learning the track, I didn’t feel I was at my best when I was on those tyres. Obviously, the track was also still a bit dirty.

“I was definitely leaving quite a bit of margin on my first run when I was on the best tyres, trying not to do anything silly and build it up and gain the confidence. Then when we put the ultra softs on afterwards, there was definitely a much bigger step in performance in terms of less grip than I thought so it was definitely going to be difficult to improve the lap time.”

Q: How do you feel the session went and were you happy with your performance on home soil in Montreal?

A: “Overall, I was quite happy with the session. The main thing was to get through the programme which we did and I kept it out of the walls – something you can very easily find on a track like this. Obviously, I’m still learning the car and the track so as far as Friday free practice 1 sessions go, it was okay.”

Q: How did you find the performance differential between the F2 car you’re racing in 2018 compared to the 2018 VJM11 that you drove at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve?

A: “There’s definitely quite a big difference! It’s quite a big step in all aspects of the driving. In the F1 car, you’re arriving quicker and you’re braking much, much later than you can wrap your head around really. Then the mid-corner speed is crazy in terms of how much you can carry and with the bigger tyres, the traction is so much improved. It’s really quite a joy to jump from an F2 into F1.”

Q: What does it mean to you to have driven a latest-specification F1 car at your home Grand Prix and in front of your family, friends and supporters?

A: “I used to come to the Montreal Grand Prix from a very early age. This was one event that was always a nice family event for us. We used to sit in the Turn 10 grandstands. I had a lot of good memories at this track. All my family, besides from my immediate family, live here in Montreal so there was a nice group out to watch me and a lot of friends as well. I definitely felt the support.”

Q: Do you know whether you’ll get more opportunities to drive the VJM11 between now and the end of the 2018 season?

A: “In terms of future sessions, I definitely think there will be opportunities further on in the year to hopefully take part in more FP1s and there’s still the test after Budapest as well. I can’t confirm any of the sessions that I will be taking part in just now but I will be back in the car further in the year.”

Q: Has getting on track at a Grand Prix race weekend made you even hungrier to graduate to Formula 1 on a full-time basis?

A: “It is my ultimate goal to arrive in a Formula One race seat – preferably sooner rather than later – but it is going to be dependent on how I perform in F2 and the first thing is you need a superlicence. I think I need to finish at least fifth in F2 this year to get the points so for sure I’m going to be pushing much more for that. But the real focus is on F2 this year and the F1 stuff that I’m doing supplements that and just adds to the overall experience.”

Home comforts for Nicholas’s F1 debut in Montreal

Canadian racing driver Nicholas Latifi made a successful Grand Prix weekend debut earlier today when he represented the Sahara Force India F1 Team in the Free Practice 1 (FP1) session at the Canadian Grand Prix.

The 22-year-old has been working with the British-based team, which currently occupies sixth place in F1’s constructors’ standings, since the start of 2018 as its official reserve and test driver.

Nicholas’s FP1 outing at the 4.36km Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve – in place of regular driver Sergio Perez – was another important step in his bid to earn a place on the Formula One grids of the future.

Today’s 90-minute session in Montreal marked the first time Nicholas had driven a Formula One car on home soil and in front of the fans that regularly support him when he races in the FIA Formula Two Championship.

Nicholas completed 28 laps during his debut FP1 session and recorded a fastest lap of 1:17.145. Today’s experience behind the wheel of Force India’s VJM11 chassis – and on the streets of the city where he was born – has left Nicholas hungry for more.

“It was a great experience and it was a special feeling pulling out of the pit lane with a big smile on my face,” he explained. “There were definitely more people in the stands compared to what I’m usually used to during a Friday practice [in Formula Two] but that’s one of the great things about Montreal. It’s definitely one of the busiest Fridays of the year and it was especially nice to see all the Canadian fans on my last lap with their flags waving to me.

“You always want to drive more, especially now that FP1 has finished. For sure, I’d love nothing more than to jump back in the car for FP2 and all the other sessions during the weekend. But I’m here to learn as well. I can learn a lot from sitting in on the debriefs and following the sessions. As much as you learn from driving yourself, you do learn from listening to the experienced drivers and obviously we have two great drivers in the team in Sergio and Esteban.”

Nicholas revealed the targets during his maiden FP1 session were for him to complete some crucial aero running and to help the Force India engineers gather important data that can then be used to fine-tune the team’s performance during the remaining on-track sessions in Montreal this weekend.

He said: “The team was generous and they kept it relatively simple for me. There was basically just a lot of aero running and gathering the data by doing the laps I needed to do. In that regard, it was fairly straight forward.”

With the dust now settled after his first Grand Prix weekend appearance, Nicholas is hoping he gets another shot in the VJM11 chassis at another FP1 session between now and the end of the 2018 season. But until then, he’s happy that he got the chance to continue his F1 learning in front of the people that have supported his career so strongly since he took his first steps as a racing driver at the age of 13.

“All my family, besides from my immediate family, live here in Montreal so there was a nice group out to watch me and a lot of friends as well. I definitely felt the support,” he said.

Nicholas set for FP1 debut at the Canadian GP

Nicholas Latifi is ready to make his Free Practice 1 (FP1) debut with the Sahara Force India F1 Team at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

The 22-year-old will drive the team’s VJM11 chassis in front of his home crowd on Friday morning. He will take to Montreal’s 4.36km Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve between 10.00 and 11.30 local time.

Nicholas prepared for his FP1 bow by taking part in Formula One’s in-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last month.

He completed 107 laps and clocked up almost 500 kilometres of running on the first day before helping Pirelli with the development of its F1 tyres range the following day.

With just under 48 hours to go, Nicholas is relishing the chance to drive a latest-specification F1 car on home soil for the first time.

“I attended the last two Grands Prix in Montreal, but I didn’t get to drive. I’m really excited – it’s a dream come true,” he said.

“I have no doubt that driving in FP1 at my home Grand Prix will be one of the biggest highlights of my year. As much as I will be looking to enjoy the opportunity, I know I am there to do a job for the team.

“I’m hoping to give them as much valuable feedback as possible to help push along the programme going into FP2.”

As soon as his Canadian Grand Prix weekend is over, Nicholas will return to Europe and continue his preparations for the fifth round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship at Le Castellet in France on 22-24 June.

Below is a profile video that the Sahara Force India F1 Team has produced in the build-up to this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.