Nicholas wins again and takes Formula 2 title lead

Nicholas Latifi maintained his impressive start to the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship by moving into the lead of the title race with a classy victory at the Baku City Circuit.

The 23-year-old Canadian qualified P7 on the grid at the challenging six-kilometre long street venue but made gains to battle for the podium places, eventually coming home in P4 at the end of Saturday’s Feature Race.

It was also a result that catapulted Latifi into the lead of the championship, but the DAMS racer was not thrilled with his own performance, given his lofty standards.

“After Race 1 I was not very happy,” he explained. “I think without any Safety Cars I would have maintained P3 but I was missing a lot of pace in the race. P4 was okay. We did a lot of analysis overnight to figure out what went wrong with my driving, you need a lot of confidence here and I didn’t have that in Race 1.”

The result earned Latifi P4 on the grid for Sunday’s Sprint Race and he quickly worked his way to the front of the pack to hold the lead.

He kept his cool through an array of Safety Car periods to pocket his second win from four races this season, moving into the lead of the championship in the process.

“Going into the race starting P4, and with the title lead, the goal was to extend it,” he said. “I was confident I’d have a pace advantage but also knew there were some fast guys around!

“Whatever the guys did overnight, I felt like a different driver, and I had so much confidence to be winning and pulling the gap. To extend the championship lead with a win is the icing on the cake.”

After the opening two rounds of the 12-event season Latifi has taken 62 points, 19 more than his nearest opponent.

“We missed a bit in qualifying, and the first race, but we came back in the second race,” said Latifi on reflection of Baku.

“We’ve got a lot of points. It’s important to build the momentum and confidence. I’m not going to say it takes the pressure off but it gives us a bit of confidence that you don’t have to try anything stupid to make up for lost points and mistakes.

“Our aim was to score points and we managed to do that.”

Nicholas’s F2 campaign is supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.

The next round of the season will take place at Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya from 10 to 12 May.

Latifi raring to get back to Baku

Nicholas Latifi will head to this week’s second round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship eager to maintain his race-winning momentum at the Baku City Circuit.

The Canadian had a productive outing last month in Bahrain when an opening round victory catapulted him into Formula 2 title contention, while a first Formula 1 test of 2019 followed as part of his duties as ROKiT Williams Racing’s reserve driver.

Now with full focus on Formula 2, Latifi and his DAMS team are keen to carry forward the positive momentum at a venue where the 23-year-old has taken three podiums in the last two years.

“I’m obviously very motivated and excited to get to Baku, especially after the success of the first round,” Latifi said.

“For sure after a weekend like that you just want to get to the next one right away. I’ve been keeping myself busy, preparing with DAMS and analysing where we can improve from Bahrain, and I’m excited to get back on track.”

But despite his positive start, Latifi is taking nothing for granted as the season reaches the second of 12 rounds.

“Our confidence is obviously high, and we have strong expectations after winning the Feature Race in Bahrain, but we’re under no illusions. We start again from zero, taking it session by session, and there’s no complacency in the team,” he said.

The six-kilometre Baku City Circuit only joined the racing world in 2016 but it has already earned a reputation for producing drama. It is lined by concrete walls and features a two-kilometre long full-throttle section that has led to some slipstreaming battles and high-speed incidents.

“Baku is a bit of a weird one as we all know – it’s like going to the casino, you never quite know what will happen!” explained Latifi.

“It’s definitely a track where you have to be quick, and can overtake, but you have to be smart, calm and level-headed, keep it clean, and let the results come to you. It’s the fastest street track we have in the calendar, and I love street tracks, the adrenalin you get driving between the walls is amazing. It’s always a recipe for an exciting weekend.”

The action in Azerbaijan will begin with a 45-minute practice session on Friday morning and that afternoon a 30-minute qualifying session will determine the grid for Saturday’s 29-lap Feature Race. A 21-lap Sprint Race on Sunday will bring the weekend to a close.

Nicholas Latifi’s 2019 racing campaign is supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.

Nicholas makes first Williams F1 appearance in Bahrain

Nicholas Latifi made his first Formula 1 testing appearance of 2019 in Bahrain on Wednesday as part of his duties as ROKiT Williams Racing reserve driver.

The Canadian joined the British team ahead of the 2019 season to gain further F1 experience in rookie tests and free practice sessions at selected Grands Prix.

He arrived at the Sakhir International Circuit buoyed by a race-winning start to his FIA Formula 2 Championship campaign last weekend.

Driving ROKiT Williams Racing’s FW42 for the first time in Bahrain, Nicholas completed 100 laps (541km), setting a best time of 1:32.198.

The 23-year-old’s run plan included carrying out aerodynamic tests prior to a series of stints on various tyres and fuel loads, as he assisted the team with its development programme.

“For me everything went very well,” Nicholas said. “I had done a lot of preparation in the simulator so I felt well prepared and I knew what to expect from the car. I was also in the debriefs during the GP weekend, listening to the race drivers, so all of that helped.

“When I was able to start pushing I quickly got up to speed. I’m very happy to get my first experience with the team.”

With ROKiT Williams Racing looking to bounce back after a tough start to the current F1 season, and in-season testing so limited, the team has placed a greater focus on Nicholas’s role in accelerating its on-track progress.

“I was definitely trying to help them as much as I could doing aero runs,” Nicholas explained. “I’m sure no driver enjoys doing them but it is part of the job! But then when we did put the car in its proper state, that’s the more enjoyable part.

“For me, any running in a Formula 1 car is great experience. There’s a lot of knowledge and very smart people behind the scenes. We’re not where we want to be as a team but there’s plenty for me to learn and it’s all valuable experience.”

Nicholas will now return to the UK for a full debrief and evaluation with ROKiT Williams Racing.

“I have a simulator day on Monday, and a large part of that will be correlation from the test, helping the guys to see how we can improve that,” he said.

“That’s an important tool to help development of the car. I’ll be helping the team from the base during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, before beginning my preparations with DAMS ahead of the next Formula 2 round in Baku (26-28 April).”