Latifi set for F1 and F2 action at iconic venues

Canadian racer Nicholas Latifi will continue his Formula 1 and Formula 2 programmes across the coming weekends (30 August – 1 September and 6 – 8 September) at two historic motor racing venues in Belgium and Italy.

Nicholas has taken four victories in this year’s FIA Formula 2 Championship, more than any other participant, winning at the opening rounds in Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Spain.

The 24-year-old made a triumphant return to the highest step of the podium at the most recent event in Hungary, cementing his position as a leading title contender with four rounds remaining.

This weekend, Nicholas heads to Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which stretches out across seven kilometres in Belgium’s picturesque Ardennes Forest. It’s a track that holds positive memories for Nicholas who claimed a Formula 2 race win there in 2018.

“Obviously I’m really looking forward to getting back to racing after the summer break,” said Nicholas, who spent much of the downtime in Toronto. “DAMS and I are confident that we can continue our recent form.”

“Spa is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar, and I’ve gone well there before. Corners like Eau Rouge and Pouhon are incredible to drive in these high-downforce cars.”

Nicholas will complement his Formula 2 racing commitments with another F1 outing in his role as ROKiT Williams Racing’s Test and Reserve Driver.

Following on from test runs in Bahrain and Spain, as well as practice outings on home soil in Canada and in France, Nicholas will get behind the wheel of the team’s Mercedes-powered FW42 for Friday’s opening 90-minute session in Belgium.

“It’s been a little while since I drove the car, so I’m excited to get back into it and continue my FP1 programme with the team,” he said.

“Since I last drove the car the team has introduced a number of development items. It’s clear the team has taken a step forward, which is encouraging. It will be interesting to see how noticeable the differences are.”

After Spa, the Formula 2 paddock will head straight to Italy for the high-speed Autodromo Nazionale Monza, where Nicholas took podium honours in 2017.

“I enjoy back-to-back race weekends, especially when you’re riding the positive momentum,” added Nicholas.

“Monza is unique as we run with such low downforce that it creates a completely different sensation with the car. We’re sliding a lot as there’s not much grip, and that makes it quite fun.

“The slipstream effect at Monza makes for some of the closest racing we get all year. Last season I did quite well, taking a fifth and a fourth, so there are some things I can carry over and some things to learn from as well.”

Nicholas’s Belgian weekend will begin with Formula 1 FP1 on Friday at 1100hrs local time (GMT +2), before Formula 2 practice at 1300hrs, and qualifying at 1655hrs.

That session will determine the grid order for Saturday’s Feature Race, scheduled for 1645hrs, with the outcome of that race setting the starting line-up for Sunday’s Sprint Race, at 1115hrs.

In Italy, Friday’s practice and qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1300hrs and 1655hrs respectively, with Saturday’s Feature Race at 1645hrs and Sunday’s Sprint Race at 1050hrs.

Hungary winner Nicholas closes on F2 title lead

Canada’s Nicholas Latifi closed on the FIA Formula 2 Championship lead in Hungary this weekend with a virtuoso race-winning display.

The 24-year-old arrived in Hungary keen to close in on title leader Nyck de Vries, having returned to the podium at the last round in Great Britain.

A difficult practice session left Nicholas without a representative effort in his DAMS car but in a rain-lashed qualifying he secured third place on the grid.

“I’m usually competitive in the wet, so the rain in qualifying spiced things up a bit,” Nicholas said. “I was on provisional pole, but didn’t quite get the right balance after and slipped back to P3 – but that was still a good place from which to start.”

In Saturday’s Feature Race, Nicholas immediately outlined his ambition by surging into the lead through Turn 1, passing rivals Luca Ghiotto and De Vries.

He stretched his advantage through the course of the race, undertaking a slick pit stop before taking the chequered flag under Safety Car conditions.

A fourth win of the season made him the most successful driver of 2019 so far, and followed previous victories in Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Spain.

Describing his crucial getaway, Nicholas said: “I got a good start off the line and was able to pull alongside Luca, maybe just a bit in front of him. As Nyck defended the inside line it gave me the opportunity to brake later around the outside. Nyck had a bit of a lock-up and I was able to just get the cut back.

“That was probably the race defining moment, because at this track, even though tyre wear does play a factor, it’s always much easier in clean air.

“I’m really happy to bring it home. A big thanks to the team, the car was amazing to drive.”

Nicholas’s win earned him P8 on the grid for Sunday’s reversed-grid Sprint Race and in a processional encounter he picked up more points by finishing P7.

“For Race 2 I had high hopes, but also some concerns about how the tyres would cope,” he said.

“In Race 1, I was by myself and running in clean air. But the sprint races are always more processional – so even if you are quicker it’s much more difficult to pass.

“The top seven positions didn’t change. I was quite a bit quicker than De Vries, but as soon as I got close I hurt the tyres, so I settled for P7. It’s slightly disappointing, but overall I’m happy with the performance and the team’s job this weekend.”

Nicholas leaves Hungary P2 in the Drivers’ Championship, chasing a 30-point deficit to De Vries.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Sprint race, DAMS announced that the French squad’s founder and owner, Jean-Paul Driot, had passed away at the age of 68 after battling illness in recent months.

Paying tribute, Nicholas said: “I’ve been part of the DAMS team since 2016, and Jean-Paul has been an instrumental part of my growth and development over these past four years.

“He gave me an opportunity, trusting in a driver with not much pedigree beforehand, and he remained one of my biggest supporters to this day.

“I’ve had ups and downs throughout my time at DAMS, but Jean-Paul never once lost confidence in me and was always someone I could count on to give the right advice at the right time.

“His racing spirit and passion to always want the best for his drivers and team will be really missed, but I can guarantee that everyone at DAMS will be pushing 100% to finish off the year as he would have wanted. I especially want to dedicate my win on Saturday to him, for without his belief and support in me I would not be where I am today.

“My thoughts are with his wife Geneviève and his sons Olivier and Gregory.”

The Formula 2 Championship resumes at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium from 30 August – 1 September.

Latifi strikes back with fourth win of 2019

Canada’s Nicholas Latifi returned to winning ways as he claimed his fourth victory of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship with an emphatic display in Hungary today.

The Canadian took three wins across the opening three rounds and remained in firm contention for the title despite being hindered by a number of incidents and setbacks.

On Saturday at the Hungaroring Nicholas seized his opportunity at the start, surging from P3 on the grid to take the lead by the time the field exited Turn 1.

He controlled proceedings throughout the course of the 37-lap Feature Race, running a standard Option/Prime tyre strategy, and comfortably had the edge on his rivals.

“Most of the hard work was done in the first corner,” Nicholas explained. “I got a decent start, then Nyck [de Vries] locked up and I was able to get the cut back. That was the key to the race.

“I had good pace on the option tyre at the beginning and was able to pull a gap and extend the stint a bit. The guys at DAMS did a great pitstop and I came back in front. After that it was all about management.

“I’m really, really happy to get the win after a few too many races off the top step – it’s a big day. Thanks to the team for providing me with an amazing car.”

A maximum 25 points means Nicholas closes the gap on title leader De Vries to 28 points with nine races remaining.

Nicholas’s attention now turns to Sunday’s 28 lap Sprint Race, which is due to start at 1125hrs (GMT+2).