Qualifying pace goes unrewarded at F2 finale

The final round of the FIA Formula Two Championship at Abu Dhabi failed to live up to its potential for Nicholas Latifi, after early Qualifying success was undone by a double dose of misfortune.

The omens looked good on Friday, when the Canadian stormed to P3 in Qualifying, putting his DAMS Racing machine on the second row for Saturday’s Feature Race at the Yas Marina Circuit – and on course to repeat his podium form in 2017.

But when the lights went out, Nicholas’s race came to a sudden end. His car was one of three to stall on the line, including the identical machine of his team-mate Alex Albon. Marooned on the front straight, Nicholas’s car was struck from behind by the Trident of Arjun Maini, who was unsighted as he accelerated away from the back row.

The enormous impact all but destroyed Nicholas’s car. Thankfully he was able to climb out of the wreckage shaken but otherwise uninjured.

“There’s not really much to say about what happened. The engine stalled, despite being at full throttle, then I got hit quite hard – and that was it.” Nicholas explained. “It was a shock but I was physically fine, and the other driver was okay as well, thankfully.”

“It was a massive disappointment, especially considering my grid position. Starting up at the front I really thought there was a good opportunity to fight for the Feature Race win. I was also a few places in front of my team mate who was on the same strategy, so I was well positioned for the pit stop.”

“Why the car stalled I don’t know, but after the problems in this area earlier in the year, it’s clear there are still some issues with this F2 car. With 620 horsepower on tap, when the throttle is flat you should never stall – regardless of what you do with the clutch. There was an update to the rev limiter before this weekend, and even at full throttle I could feel the revs were much lower than normal. I’m not sure if that caused it, or contributed to it, but it’s something for them to look at.”

After a satisfactory check-up by the circuit medical team, and a late night for his DAMS mechanics, Nicholas and his repaired car were back on track for Sunday’s Sprint race, only for the engine to stall once again when the lights went out.

“We had reverted to the previous rev limiter and I was more conservative with my start procedure, and still it stalled. It felt like a double slap in the face,” Nicholas said.

Once restarted, he rejoined at the back of the field and a lap down on his rivals. “There was nothing to fight for, so I just did my best and compared my lap times to those of the leaders,” Nicholas said. “I tried to drive as fast a race as possible, and I was satisfied with my pace, but ultimately I was racing for nothing. Quite probably the worst way to end the season, but it is what it is.”

With the 2018 racing season now complete, Nicholas will remain in Abu Dhabi for the three-day F2 test which gets underway on Thursday. “I’ll dust myself down and reset ready for the test. We have three days before I get back in the car, and that gives us time for a thorough analysis. Then it’s back behind the wheel, when the focus will be on coming back stronger,” he said.

Motivation high for Nicholas Latifi at F2 season finale

Nicholas Latifi is aiming to shine under the floodlights in Abu Dhabi this weekend when the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship season reaches its climax at the Yas Marina Circuit.

The Canadian’s confidence heading into the final round has been boosted by a positive run of results during his last three events, including a win, a podium and a pair of top-five finishes.

Now, eight weeks since the last round at Sochi, Nicholas is eager to get back behind the wheel of his DAMS Racing machine.

“I’m feeling excited and motivated ahead of the final round of the season,” he said. “There has been a strong upward trend in my results from Spa onwards, and that’s been good for my confidence. Now I’m looking to keep that run going in Abu Dhabi. I’d like to round out the season on a high.”

The 5.554 km Yas Marina Circuit is one that Nicholas knows well. It was the setting for a strong weekend last year, when he secured P5 in the Feature race and P3 in the Sprint race.

“It’s a track that I enjoy and one I feel comfortable on,” he explained. “Last year I was able find a good, confident feeling with the car and I hope to get into that positive window again. The aim is to get the results I know are possible.”

“DAMS is also in the fight for the teams’ championship, so I’d like to help them move up a few places in the standings as well.”

Despite the lengthy gap between races, Nicholas has kept himself race-sharp with two Free Practice outings for the Racing Point Force India Formula One Team at the Grands Prix in Mexico and Brazil, as well as ‘virtually’ lapping Yas Marina in the DAMS simulator.

After a lot of preparation, Nicholas believes he’s in a good position for the upcoming races in Abu Dhabi – which he expects will be action-packed.

He said: “The track makes for exciting racing – and I think the Feature race will be very interesting with Pirelli’s nominated soft and super-soft tyre compounds. The 2018 car is heavier than last year’s, and that makes tyre management more difficult, so I think strategies here will make for a great race.”

Uniquely this season, the 31-lap Feature race will run at night, illuminated by the 4,700 floodlights that line the track. The pre-race Qualifying session will also run in the dark, bringing a different complexion to the challenge.

“This will be the first time I’ve raced under floodlights this season. We qualified at night in Bahrain but raced during the day. Qualifying and racing in the cooler conditions will add an extra element to the performance of the tyres as well,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas’s F2 race weekend begins on Friday with free practice at 1130hrs, before qualifying at 1900hrs. Saturday’s Feature Race starts at 1840hrs ahead of Sunday’s Sprint Race that gets underway at 1335hrs. (Times quoted are GMT+4 / EDT+8).

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