Nicholas puts future F1 aero to the test in Hungary

Nicholas Latifi helped the Sahara Force India F1 Team collect data for its 2019-season car during 451km of testing at the Hungaroring today.

Just over a week after his second Free Practice session of the year at Hockenheim, the Canadian strapped back into the VJM11 car to resume his test and development role at the Formula One in-season test in Budapest, Hungary.

With F1 technical regulations changing next year, Nicholas helped the team collect real-world data to support simulation work being done at the factory.

“It has been a very productive day and I was happy to get many more laps behind the wheel, getting more and more confident with each run,” Nicholas said. “The majority of our programme was built around the new aero parts for 2019, based on the new set of regulations for the sport: it was interesting to feel how they worked on the car and to gather data for the team.

“In the afternoon we got caught out by the rain, which meant I didn’t get to do the fun part – the performance runs we had planned with hypersoft tyres. I was a bit disappointed to miss out on that but that’s how it happens sometimes. I am still pleased with my performance today and I am looking forward to being in the car again soon.”

Tom McCullough, the team’s chief race engineer, said it had been a successful day.

“We managed to get all the aero data we set out to obtain, something that was critical for our 2019 car development. We had a new front wing on the car, alongside other test items and instrumentation.

“Nicholas didn’t put a foot wrong all day – he settled straight back into the team and, as it was clear from the previous times he was in the car, he was able to do useful work from the first lap. The heavy rain showers in the afternoon meant we had to cut our programme short, but we still managed a solid 103 laps so we can be satisfied with our work,” he added.

Nicholas Latifi out of luck in Hungary

Nicholas Latifi left Hungary empty-handed after a double dose of back luck at this weekend’s FIA Formula 2 Championship rounds in Budapest.

In both races the Canadian was affected by factors beyond his control. A broken alternator cable brought his DAMS Racing car to a halt in Saturday’s Feature Race, while on Sunday Nicholas tagged the rear of Max Günther’s car when it slowed suddenly with a technical problem.

“There were reasons for optimism throughout the weekend, but ultimately the results were disappointing and I just couldn’t catch a break,” Nicholas acknowledged. “We have the summer break coming up and I must admit I’m looking forward to some time away so I can regroup and start afresh at Spa.”

Nicholas was one of the stars of last year’s races at the Hungaroring, but after an encouraging start in Friday’s Practice, both he and his DAMS Racing team-mate were off the pace in Qualifying, leading to a challenging P14 start position for Saturday’s rain-lashed 34-lap Feature Race.

“Neither of us could get decent times out of the car in Qualifying and we ended up evenly matched, less than two-hundredths apart,” Nicholas explained.

“To help me in the race I was hoping for a bit of rain and Hungary certainly delivered – I think it was the most hectic start I’ve been a part of! I could see almost nothing through the spray but I got a good first lap, made up some positions and my pace was strong.

“But as the track began to dry I struggled with front tyre wear and I lost some ground. Our pit stop strategy didn’t go to plan and I ended up staying out for a lap longer than I should. Then a slow pit stop meant I rejoined behind the pack I had been battling with. My pace on the slicks was among the top three but I was on borrowed time. A cable from the alternator had come off and when the battery went flat the car shut off. And that meant last place on the grid for the Sprint Race.”

Sunday’s 28-lap race was run in hot and sunny conditions, which prompted Nicholas to prioritise tyre management.

“After the first lap I felt it would be a race with massive degradation, so I immediately went into tyre saving mode,” he explained.

“At the time when I felt I had a really good tyre advantage I was right on Günther’s rear and defending from two cars behind. I was sandwiched, and when Gunther’s car lost power right in front there was nothing I could do to avoid running into the back. I damaged my front wing and cut my front tyre so I had to pit. It was a huge shame because my pace was good and I think I could have battled into the points.”

F2 now moves into its summer break, with the next round taking place at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium from the 24-26 August.

For Nicholas however there will be an extended stay in Hungary, as he prepares to drive the Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s VJM11 at the Formula One in-season test in Budapest on Tuesday (31 July).

He said: “After FP1 sessions in Montreal and Hockenheim I’m very excited about another chance to get back behind the wheel. I’m keen for more experience, and a full day of testing offers different possibilities to an FP1. It’s the last in-season test of the year and I want to maximise the opportunity.”

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

Nicholas Latifi eyes more Hungary success

Nicholas Latifi is hoping to repeat his successful racing form in Hungary when the FIA Formula 2 Championship reaches Budapest for round eight this weekend (27-29 July).

The Canadian finished a close second in last year’s Feature Race in Hungary, just two tenths off the win, and went on to bank more points in the Sprint Race. Twelve months on, Nicholas is eager to get back to the 4.38km Hungaroring and go after more points at the wheel of his DAMS Racing machine.

“It’s not one of my favourite events in the calendar, but last year it ended up being one of my strongest race weekends,” Nicholas acknowledged. “It’s a tight and twisty track and tends to host exciting races because it’s so difficult to overtake. It’s often likened to Monaco, but without the walls.

“The number of corners and heavy braking zones make it difficult for the tyres because they don’t really get a rest. It’s normally hot too, although the forecast suggests we might be in for some rain this time – and I wouldn’t mind that.”

Since the last F2 round in Great Britain, Nicholas completed his second Formula One Free Practice session for the Sahara Force India team, driving its VJM11 F1 car for 27 laps at the Hockenheimring in Germany.

He also spent time at DAMS Racing, reviewing data from the recent trio of back-to-back F2 rounds, and was able to evaluate new clutch upgrades that will be introduced to all F2 cars in Hungary to make them less susceptible to stalling.

Nicholas said: “Like all the teams, we were given permission to test the new clutch components and carry out some starts in full power mode. The pull-away seemed easier, but it remains to be seen how easy it will be to get a good start, without too much wheelspin or bogging down.

“In general, the break since Silverstone has given us more time to analyse the data and plan how best to attack this weekend,” he continued.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle in the first half of the year, so each race is an opportunity to learn from the previous one and get back to where me and the team feel we deserve to be.

“The goal remains the same. I want to finish in the points in both races, starting with good practice and qualifying sessions with no mistakes. This is the last round before the summer break, and I want to get some momentum now, get some confidence back and head into the break on a positive.”

The action at the Hungaroring begins on Friday with Practice at 1255hrs (local), before Qualifying at 1655hrs. Saturday’s 37-lap Feature Race starts at 1645hrs ahead of the Sunday’s 28-lap Sprint Race from 1120hrs.

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

Nicholas completes second FP1 test

Nicholas Latifi racked up another 123km at the wheel of a latest-spec Formula One car today (Friday) when he completed a second Free Practice 1 (FP1) session for the Sahara Force India F1 team.

Six weeks after his maiden FP1 session at June’s Canadian Grand Prix, Nicholas was back in the cockpit of the team’s VJM11 car to complete 27 laps of a scorching hot Hockenheimring in Germany.

Nicholas drove Esteban Ocon’s car during the session and recorded a fastest lap time of 1m16.023s as he continued to settle into his role of official reserve and test driver.

“Overall I’m quite pleased with my second FP1 session. Already from the first lap I felt more comfortable with the car and the whole race team environment after my first experience in Montreal,” Nicholas said.

“I know the track well and it was a straightforward session with some aero test items and tyre work. I chipped away at the performance lap after lap and from a personal point of view I felt more at ease compared to Montreal and felt more competitive. Obviously I will build on this experience so that I’m ready for the next time I’m back in the car for an FP1 session later in the year. ”

Before that, Nicholas will get another chance to drive the VJM11 at the Formula One in-season test in Budapest on 31 July.


More Formula One testing for Nicholas Latifi

Nicholas Latifi will return to the cockpit of Sahara Force India’s VJM11 Formula One car for two more test appearances this month.

The 23-year-old has been working with the British-based team since the start of 2018 as its official reserve and test driver.

Six weeks after his maiden Free Practice 1 (FP1) session at June’s Canadian Grand Prix, Nicholas will take the wheel again on 20 July at the FP1 session ahead of the German Grand Prix.

The Canadian will drive Esteban Ocon’s car at the Hockenheim Circuit to gain further experience of working with the team during a Grand Prix event.

Nicholas will also drive for the team during the Formula One in-season test in Budapest on 31 July.

“Montreal was fantastic, it’s a day I’ll never forget, so I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car for a second FP1 outing at Hockenheim,” Nicholas said.

“Unlike Montreal, Hockenheim is a track I have driven before, and because I’m a bit more used to the car now, I’m feeling relaxed and more comfortable and confident.

“The goal is to do a good job for the team and get the data they need. I want to push along the programme for them as much as possible and build my own experience at the wheel of a Formula One car.”

Nicholas Latifi: I’ll keep pushing

Nicholas Latifi has vowed to keep pushing for improvement after a disappointing showing at this weekend’s FIA Formula 2 Championship rounds at Silverstone, Great Britain.

Twelve months after a memorable lights-to-flag victory in the Sprint Race, Nicholas was left dissatisfied with two P17 finishes from the third in a series of three back-to-back rounds.

The Canadian said his contrasting fortunes at his favourite circuit highlighted the difficulties he was having with this season’s all-new turbo-charged car – and made him more determined to find a solution.

“The team and I have a lot to go over so I can get on top of this new car,” Nicholas explained. “It’s completely different this year and that has implications for my driving style too.”

After a hectic few weeks, Nicholas and his DAMS Racing team now have a three-week window to review the race data before the next round at the Hungaroring (27 – 29 July)

Nicholas said: “In between these back-to-back races it has been difficult to analyse the previous weekend’s findings because the focus quickly shifts to the next races. That’s especially a problem if you are trying to make improvements and try new things, like we are. The three-week break until the next round gives us more time to reflect and analyse.”

Nicholas arrived at Silverstone hoping to evaluate set-up changes made after the previous races in Austria. However a spin in Friday’s Free Practice session prevented any meaningful analysis.

“We were trying something different to get the car more to my liking,” he said. “We were planning a long race run – eight or nine laps to get used to the feeling and the tyre degradation. Instead, I make a mistake on the second lap, spun, and the engine stalled straight away. That meant I wasn’t properly prepared for qualifying, and although I did a lap that felt clean, it was only good enough for P15.”

“As bad as the Feature Race result was, there were some positives to take – especially in terms of grip. The problem was that I was battling in the pack and on this track all that energy destroys the tyres. I felt good when I got up to P10 but I wasn’t content to finish there. I wanted to get a reverse grid position and I continued to push hard – too hard for the tyres. Having taken too much life out of them I knew it was going to be a very bad end to the race. The damage was done.”

Starting Sunday’s Sprint Race from the back row, Nicholas was unsettled by contact from Sette Camara’s Carlin at the end of the formation lap.

“He ruined his race and took a chunk out of my floor,” Nicholas said. “This is not a track where you want an aero disadvantage. I’m not sure how much it compromised my overall pace but it must have contributed a bit. Regardless, I didn’t have the feeling like I did on Saturday. Now it’s time to have a proper review of what we have learned so far, and concentrate on coming back stronger in Budapest.”

Nicholas Latifi targets increased pace at Silverstone

Nicholas Latifi took another FIA Formula 2 Championship point from the Red Bull Ring this weekend, but believes bold set-up changes to his car could unlock more pace for the next round at Silverstone in the UK.

The Canadian, who turned 23 on Friday, finished second in last year’s Feature Race at the Austrian track, but he wasn’t able to challenge the front runners this time.

“We were on the back foot from practice, when my car had a turbo problem,” Nicholas explained. “It happened twice in the session, first just at the end of my push lap. The team managed to fix it in the pits, and it worked for a couple more laps, but then it went again. It was out of my hands unfortunately, but it meant I didn’t get any representative running in practice.

“I went into qualifying blind, with few references to use. I set a lap that put me 15th or 16th but I wasn’t able to improve on it. I pushed a bit too much, and made a few mistake that stemmed from being nowhere in practice.”

Starting Saturdays Feature Race from P19, Nicholas made his way through the field and ended in a tense four-way fight for P8 on the final lap.

“Fighting for pole on the reverse grid was a similar situation to the last race at Paul Ricard, unfortunately this time I missed out,” said Nicholas, who took the chequered flag in P11.

“Sunday’s Sprint Race was better because I could match the pace of the cars around me, but I struggled with the tyres and getting the car to do what I wanted. A slight pace advantage on the last four or five laps enabled me to move up and take the final point for 8th.

“Generally we seem to have lost the edge on race pace we had last year. It’s frustrating, and the team and I are working hard to try and fix it. Last year I showed I know how to drive quickly around the Red Bull Ring. I haven’t forgotten how to do it, and I know how to manage the tyres, but I’m just not getting the right feeling out there.”

Nicholas will travel to the DAMS Racing team base in France this week to consider fresh set-up options ahead of next week’s round in Great Britain (6 – 8 July) the scene of his maiden F2 race win last year.

He said: “There’s lots to analyse now before we head to my favourite track in the calendar. I feel we’re in a position where we have nothing to lose, so I’m pushing the guys to try someting big with the car. The changes that worked for us last year haven’t transferred to this new car so we need to try something different.

“We took some big risks last year that paid off – I think we need to take the same approach again to try and get back on the pace.”

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