Nicholas to race for ROKiT Williams Racing in 2020

Nicholas will step up to a full-time FIA Formula One World Championship race seat in 2020, after being confirmed today as a ROKiT Williams Racing driver.

The 24-year-old Canadian joined the British team in 2019 as reserve driver and gained valuable experience across the season through a programme of testing, simulator work and participation in six FP1 sessions.

Nicholas arrives in F1 after his most successful campaign to date in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. In 2019 he has claimed four wins and seven podiums and currently occupies P2 in the drivers’ championship standings heading into this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Nicholas said: “I’m extremely excited to be stepping up to a full-time F1 race drive next year. For me, it’s a dream come true and something I’ve been working towards for almost half my life.

“It still feels a bit surreal. I don’t think it will sink in fully until I’m on the grid in Melbourne next year.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity from Williams. I’ve had a very enjoyable first year there – right from my first day at the factory. There is a great atmosphere throughout the team and everyone made me feel comfortable straight away. That’s important when you’re stepping into a new environment.

“I can’t wait to take the next step forward as a full-time race driver. I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead, going into F1 as a rookie, but I’m extremely motivated and determined to give it my all. I’ll give maximum effort and do whatever I can to help push the team forward and to achieve results we can be proud of.”

Nicholas’s appointment completes the team’s driver line-up for 2020. He will race alongside British team-mate George Russell in next year’s FIA Formula One World Championship, which kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix on 15 March.

Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal, said: “I am delighted to announce that Nicholas will be stepping up to the role of race driver to partner George in 2020. All of us at Williams have been immensely impressed at what he has achieved this year in FIA Formula 2, alongside his commitment to the team, and the work that he has put in behind the scenes.

“Nicholas has become an established and well-respected member of Williams, and we look forward to working with him in his new role, as we continue to fight our way back to the midfield.”

 

Nicholas ready for final push at formula 2 finale in Abu Dhabi

Canadian racer Nicholas Latifi is aiming to secure the runner-up position in the FIA Formula 2 Championship when the season comes to a close in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

After nine months of competition over 11 rounds, Nicholas enters the finale 10 points clear of nearest rival Luca Ghiotto, thanks to his four wins and seven podiums during 2019.

The 24-year-old is a previous podium finisher at the Yas Marina Circuit. The 5.55km track poses a variety of challenges for drivers and teams, with long straights, heavy braking zones, and an array of off-camber turns requiring maximum concentration.

The circuit also boasts a network of floodlights and the F2 series makes the most of the opportunity to run in cooler temperatures by scheduling qualifying and the Feature Race so they run after sunset.

“I’m looking forward to the last race of the season because it’s been a big break since the most recent Formula 2 race in Sochi – nearly two months,” Nicholas said.

“Fortunately I’ve had a lot of things to keep me busy, like taking part in three FP1 sessions in Mexico, USA and Brazil, with ROKiT Williams Racing. I have also done some training, kept active with some karting, and caught up with DAMS as part of my normal preparations.

“Going into the last race, the goal is clear: to at least maintain my second place in the championship. Abu Dhabi is one of my favourite races to go to, the whole event has one of the best atmospheres. It’s a beautiful track aesthetically, and the fact we get to drive at night makes it unique.

“I have no doubt we’ll be at the sharp end in practice, qualifying and the races. That should enable us to fight for podiums and wins – and it would be nice to get a pole position as well!”

Nicholas has competed in F1’s official feeder series since 2016 and this weekend’s Abu Dhabi round will bring down the curtain on his career in the category.

“I’ve said in many interviews that this is my last season in Formula 2, regardless of how the campaign went. This was always going to be my last year,” he explained.

“As well as runners-up in the Drivers’ Championship, we’re also fighting to win the Teams’ Championship. I’d love to finish my time with DAMS by helping them seal the title. I know how much hard work and effort they put in, so it would mean a lot to give them that.”

Friday practice will take place at 11:30 local time, with qualifying at 19:00. Saturday’s 31-lap Sprint Race is scheduled for 18:45. The season will conclude with Sunday’s 22-lap Sprint Race at 13:30.

A postcard from Brazil

Bom dia! Another postcard for you. This time from the Brazilian Grand Prix, my third opportunity in a row to get more mileage in the F1 car following the runs in Mexico and the US.

Before heading to São Paulo I went home to Canada, taking advantage of having three events in succession on this side of the pond. I spent time with friends and family – though I did a lot of training, so it wasn’t really a holiday – and I also did a lot of Interlagos laps on the F1 game. I tried the F1 online eSports setting just to see how I stacked up against the professional eSports drivers.

Heading to the weekend we knew it was likely that Friday’s FP1 session would be a wet one, and we made plans for that during the preparations along with the normal seat belt checks, engineering meetings and track walk.

I was hoping for it to be wet, and as a joke I did a bit of a rain dance on Thursday. Perhaps I danced for too long because we got a deluge! On the positive side, wet weather experience in this car is something I was lacking.

At the beginning of the session it was raining extremely heavily and track conditions were poor, with a lot of standing water. It was a case of sitting in the car, waiting and wanting to go out.

I did eventually get in some running, but it was more about gaining experience and not taking risks. It’s easy to have a big off at Interlagos when it’s wet. At the same time, it’s incredible how much grip these cars still have.

Tracks like Interlagos dry quickly, and even on the first lap on intermediates you can lose the peak of the tyre’s performance. But I was pleased I had a clean session, running the programme that was needed. Once again, me and George were running different programmes so there were no representative times to compare. Would I have liked to have more laps? Of course. But I did 16, which was quite a lot compared to some, so I can be happy with that.

Interlagos marked my sixth and final FP1 run with Williams this season and I’ve been pleased with how I’ve performed. I think the team is as well. There were no problems from my side, and we completed most of the programmes that are so important for a Friday. It was also good to finish off with the wet session I wanted.

Sadly, this year’s Brazil was one of those airport-hotel-track-airport events and I didn’t get to see what the city had to offer. This week I’ll be at the Williams factory for debriefs of the last few FP1 runs and some simulator driving to help correlate data. Then it’ll be a short hop to France to catch up with DAMS before my final Formula 2 event in Abu Dhabi.

I think it will be an emotional couple of days with the F2 team. This will most likely be my last visit there. I’ve spent the last four years racing for DAMS so we have a lot of memories together.

There’s a restaurant near the factory and every time I’ve gone there up to now I’ve had to watch the mechanics and engineers tuck into incredible looking pizza and desert. There’s still the final round to consider of course, but maybe as it’s the last time I’ll allow myself to indulge a bit!

Bye for now

A postcard from Austin

Howdy! Nicholas here, checking in fresh from the US GP.

After my last FP1 run in Mexico City I took a bit of a detour to Colorado with my coaches, just for a bit of training.

It was a new experience for me as we did some camping. Wow, it was cold! We pitched up in the mountains and I did a lot of biking through some nice trails. We didn’t do anything too risky – I trust myself on four wheels rather than two!

On the first night, we tried to make fire the traditional way, but it was a struggle because it was so cold. I got the wood smoking as much as I could but it just wouldn’t light. We had to cheat and use a lighter in the end. We cooked over the fire once we got it going and that was cool.

Unfortunately, I had probably the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had, maybe just 30 minutes, maximum an hour. It was proper camping on the hard ground and in freezing temperatures. We also heard rustling outside of the tent during the night, but we were relieved when we heard someone call what turned out to be a stray dog. I thought it was a wolf for a second or two!

We planned on doing two more days camping, but the next night it was going to be -7 degrees Celsius. Knowing that I was doing the FP1 session, so we cut loose and found a hotel. I think if I wasn’t doing FP1 in Austin then my coaches would have made me suffer a bit more! But it was nonetheless a cool experience being out in the wild.

I flew into Austin on Wednesday evening so Thursday was my first day on the ground and it was like any other preparation day – only much colder! I was bundled up in my hat and gloves, and I actually used my camping kit for the track walk, so thankfully all my cold-weather gear was prepared. I think we were the only ones out there as everyone else thought it was too cold and too windy.

I was really looking forward to driving the FP1, and the track, even in the low-grip conditions. But, unfortunately, we had a gearbox issue after only two push laps. It was a real shame not to have more laps and be able to get up to the limit of the car, as I wasn’t taking any risks at that point, but that’s how it goes. It’s racing. For sure, it’s a bit more disappointing when you’re only doing FP1 and know you’re only going to get a few laps anyway, but the important thing was making sure the car was fixed for George and FP2.

For the rest of the weekend I stuck around and it’s always useful to sit back, learn, and focus on what’s going on around the team. I treat it as if I’m jumping in the car for the rest of the weekend; there’s a lot of sitting around but that’s how it is. It means I don’t have late nights or really get to experience what Austin has to offer but it’s still a cool city and I managed to explore a little bit.

Next up, I’ll be back in the Williams for Friday practice in Brazil and after that it’s the last Formula 2 round in Abu Dhabi. Once that’s done, another very busy season will be chalked off and we’ll have to time to consider what 2020 may have in store.