Toronto and my 2020 F1 race number

Hi guys,

First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

As we gear up for the season ahead, it’s time to reveal my Formula 1 race number for 2020. The one I’ve chosen is… 6!

The main reason is that 6 is so closely linked to Toronto. It’s where I’m from, where I was raised, and the city I’m proud to be representing.

Toronto is widely referred to as ‘The 6’, which is partly down to Drake, who’s also from Toronto. He mentions the name in one of his early songs, and one of his albums was originally called ‘Views from the 6’.

Other 6 links are that Toronto was one divided into six districts, and that the two telephone area codes for Toronto start or finish with a six.

For all these reasons the name has just stuck; anyone who’s from North America knows what ‘The 6’ is – especially if they listen to Drake…

It also happens to be the number I used for three out of my four seasons in Formula 2. Although that was more by chance, as DAMS was given 5 and 6 because of the finishing positions in the championship. But as soon as we had those numbers, I knew immediately which one I wanted!

Catch up again soon.

 

Postcard from Abu Dhabi

Hi guys.

I wanted to give you an update after a hugely busy week in Abu Dhabi that included my reveal as a ROKiT Williams Racing driver in 2020, the final Formula 2 weekend of my career, and an F1 test day to round off the year.

Coming into the weekend there were a lot of things on my mind. Biggest of all was the plan around Thursday’s F1 announcement, which I was excited to finally get out in the open and make public.

On top of that was the last round of Formula 2, knowing I’d be closing the chapter on that part of my career and closing out with DAMS, who I’ve been with for four years. So, it was always going to be a monumental few days in my life.

I arrived in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night, a day earlier than I normally would for a race weekend because I wanted to adjust to the time change and the heat. I used the opportunity on Wednesday to do some of my usual Thursday checks as I knew the announcement would keep me busy.

I went to the track and sat in the F2 car – which felt a bit weird after two months away. I went over a few little things with the DAMS guys, and then did a track walk and later a track run!

On Thursday, it was straight to the F1 paddock where Claire [Williams] introduced me to the team, as soon as the official announcement went out. Of course, it wasn’t a big surprise to the guys and girls at Williams, but it was very cool to hear Claire introducing me ‘officially’ as a driver for next year. My family was there too, so it was a special moment.

I said a few words as well, and then it was straight to a round of media interviews, and then another session for TV crews. That was a lot of fun.

When all that was done, I had to put F1 to the back of my mind and switch focus back to Formula 2. That was tough because my phone started blowing up with messages as soon as the news went out – even though I think it was the early hours of the morning in Canada. The initial reaction was super positive, and it was cool to see all the support.

The fact that there will be two Canadians on the grid in 2020 seemed to go down well back home. There was a lot of chatter and my phone just kept beeping. In the end, I had to put it on ‘do not disturb’ and it stayed like that for the whole weekend. It was a shame – but I had an important job to do and my focus needed to be solid.

My last Formula 2 weekend brought me a P7 on Saturday and a podium in the sprint race to make sure of Vice Champion status in the championship. It was a good feeling to finally wrap that up!

On Sunday night, we celebrated at dinner with DAMS, my team-mate Sergio and my family. We went on to the Amber Lounge party for one final, non-alcoholic, send-off with the team. After a lot of hard work, everyone was happy to let off some steam and enjoy the moment.

With Formula 2 done and dusted, I felt Monday was my first proper day as a Formula 1 race driver. I had to be at the track early – but I was super excited so getting out of bed wasn’t any kind of problem.

We kicked off with an engineering meeting to discuss the run plan for the test. I must admit, it was a fantastic feeling to walk into the Formula 1 paddock as a team driver, and not just a visitor from Formula 2. It was a nice little reminder that all the hard work had been worth it.

George [Russell] and Roy [Nissany] were in the car on Tuesday, so I went to the track to follow along. They were testing the 2020 tyres so I knew that any information they could pass on would give me a head start when I climbed into the car myself.

My first official day behind the wheel on Wednesday definitely felt different. Being able to take every little bit of information about the 2020 rubber into next year was the goal, and that will benefit us heading into winter testing.

I did some low-fuel running and qualifying simulations to see how the new tyres would react, then some full fuel race simulations later in the day. I did a lot of laps in a very short period and got to test my fitness levels. I’ll be hitting the gym during the winter to ensure my is ready for the new demands of the F1 car. That will be fun!

I’m pleased with the mileage we did, 107 laps I think, and the chance to do some high-fuel running was useful because I haven’t done much in the FP1s or test days up to now.

I flew out of Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night, arrived in London Thursday morning, and I’m sticking around in the UK to do some bits at Williams, including some more simulator days, before the holidays.

Back at the factory there’s lots to go over, and check-lists to go through to make sure everything is well prepared before the winter. Come January, there will be even more stuff to do. But any boxes we can tick off now will help make me and the team rest easier over the holidays. That’s extremely important so everyone’s energised for the new season.

That’s about all from me for the time being. Thanks for all the support during the season and the amazing messages while I was in Abu Dhabi. I’m still getting through them!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

F1-bound Nicholas secures second in FIA F2 Championship

Nicholas Latifi said an emotional farewell to the FIA Formula 2 Championship today by securing second place in the driver’s standings with a podium during the final race of the campaign in Abu Dhabi.

The 24-year old Canadian revealed last Thursday that he will be stepping up to a Formula 1 race seat with ROKiT Williams Racing in 2020, bringing his time in the F2 feeder series to a close after the final 2019 event at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Nicholas showed strong pace during practice and qualifying but was caught out by a late yellow flag in the session, leaving him P7 on Saturday’s Feature Race grid.

He made gains early in the race but running the Option/Prime strategy left him out of sequence, and he crossed the line in P7.

“Coming into this weekend there were a lot of things in my head, a lot of emotions. I knew the F1 announcement was coming up, so it was nice to get that out in the open,” Nicholas said.

“From the F2 side of things the goal was clear – to secure the Teams’ Championship and to secure P2 in the Drivers’ Championship. I had the advantage coming in, so it was mine to lose.

“I just tried to focus on doing my best performance. I knew the results would be there if that was the case.

“I was a bit disappointed with the first race, but I think it was the best result we could have got in the circumstances. My team-mate was ahead of me and he had priority with the pit stop. Running the Option tyre, we needed to pit as soon as the window opened. We decided to stack the cars, on the same lap, and that cost me maybe 6-9 seconds, but that’s how it goes.”

Nicholas’s P7 put him P2 on the grid for Sunday’s Sprint Race, and he brought his DAMS car to the chequered flag in the same position to secure the honour of 2019 F2 Vice Champion.

“I didn’t want to still have the fight open for the last race but I was confident in my own performance,” he said.

“I didn’t make the best start, but I secured the fastest lap, for the extra two points, and then just brought it home, nothing silly.”

The weekend’s results also secured the Teams’ Championship for DAMS, with Nicholas paying tribute to the squad, and founder Jean-Paul Driot, who passed away in August.

“It marks the end of my journey in Formula 2, and more importantly my journey with DAMS. I learned a lot about myself as a driver and as a human being these last four years, experiencing the highs and lows, I feel better off for all of it,” he reflected.

“I must thank everyone at DAMS. Their support has been incredible. They helped me to keep pushing all the time and shaped me into the driver I am today.

“And to Jean-Paul especially. Without him I would not be in the position I am today. He took a big risk on me in 2016 when I first joined the team as a rookie. He had the faith, he kept believing.

“This weekend we won the Teams’ Championship, which is what it’s all about for the guys. To reward them all, and Jean-Paul, means the most to me.”

 

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.

A postcard from Mexico

Hola everyone! So, a different approach to the FP1 reports this time – a couple of postcards from my trip to the F1 rounds in Mexico and – next week – the US.

First up, Mexico, and it was great to get back in the Williams on Friday for the first time since Belgium. After the F2 round in Russia I’ve spent a lot of time at the Williams factory in the UK, getting as prepared as possible for these FP1 runs.

It’s a case of trying to help the team get some references, assist the development work on the simulator, and just seeing what else we can do. I had a brief visit to Estoril, in Portugal, for a sponsor event with Williams, which meant I drove some clients around the circuit on hot laps – getting a bit of a drift on where possible! More importantly for me I was able to go home to Toronto for a while and spend time with family and friends.

I flew to Mexico City from Toronto last Wednesday and unfortunately, I had the standard racing driver experience of hotel/airport/circuit, so I didn’t get much of an opportunity to check out the sights. But the track itself has a fantastic atmosphere and a cool paddock. They have stands there offering churros, tacos and tequilas – all the stuff that looks great but that sadly, to keep my fitness up, I have to resist every time 🙁 it’s fair to say many of the fans fully embrace the opportunity – and that’s great to see!

Before getting in the car on Friday morning I had a full day of prep on Thursday. I did a full track walk, and even though I’ve been to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez before, it’s useful to see whether anything has changed and get your bearings again.

The walk also gives me the chance to discuss the run plan with engineers, the set-up philosophy and so on. Besides that, we also have our main engineering meeting with the team management and race drivers – George and Robert – discussing the goals for the weekend, and overviewing what we can expect. The relevant items for me are obviously related to FP1, but it’s still useful to for tips and other information.

I also spent time in the garage, jumping in the car to make sure everything was fine, as the seats, pedals and belts have to be changed from Robert’s settings. I like to take the opportunity to sit and ‘marinate’ there for 10 minutes as it feels different ergonomically to the Formula 2 car. It’s useful to get a feel for the pedals, the steering wheel, hit the paddles just to get re-adjusted so I’m not going in cold just before practice and thinking ‘oh this feels a bit weird’!

I was pleased with how FP1 went. It was a clean session and I gathered the data the team needed. It wasn’t possible to compare lap times with George as we were on different run plans. I was on quite an old package, as the team is limited with spares, so understandably I didn’t want to risk damage for Robert. Considering what I lost in pure performance from the parts I was where I wanted to be, and exactly where the team wanted me to be, so I can take some positivity from that!

Once FP2 was finished it was time for me to say goodbye to Mexico City as my performance coaches planned a little camping trip for me before Austin! I’m currently in Colorado ramping up the training before the next FP1 run on Friday. I’ll be back soon to let you know how I get on…

Take care guys,
Nicky

 

Nicholas consolidates P2 with F2 podium in Sochi

Canada’s Nicholas Latifi returned to the podium and strengthened his grip on P2 in the FIA Formula 2 Drivers’ Championship during this weekend’s penultimate event in Russia.

He set the pace during Friday’s free practice session and secured P2 on the grid, behind title rival Nyck de Vries, in a closely-fought qualifying session.

Nicholas remained in contention for victory throughout Saturday’s 28-lap Feature Race as he battled a brake issue, and ultimately placed runner-up to his Dutch rival.

The outcome of the race secured the title for de Vries, and season-long rival Nicholas was quick to offer his congratulations.

“It’s unfortunate to lose the title but Nyck did it in style, so credit to him, and to his team,” he said.

“On my side, Race 1 was very difficult for me to manage as I felt I had a brake issue on the way to the grid and it stayed there the whole race.

“In the circumstances I was happy to get P2 as it looked as if my overall pace wasn’t great.”

That result put Nicholas P7 on the grid for Sunday’s reversed-grid Sprint Race and he rose up the order during a chaotic start, eventually securing more points for P4.

“The goal was to move forward, score more points, and consolidate P2 in the standings,” he said.

“I avoided the mess at the start, but I didn’t have huge confidence in the first lap or two, so my team-mate got past.

“It took me a few laps to get into the rhythm and overall the pace was pretty decent after that. I got the fastest lap – which was a positive – and then my team-mate’s penalty meant I got P4.”

Nicholas leaves Sochi Autodrom 10 points clear of nearest rival Luca Ghiotto, and will have to wait until the end of November to resume the runner-up battle, when the final round is contented in Abu Dhabi (29 Nov – 1 Dec).

Before then, he will resume his role as ROKiT Williams Racing’s Test and Reserve Driver.

“It’s a long time to wait now until the final round but I have some FP1s with Williams to keep me occupied,” he said.

 

Latifi pushing to close F2 points gap in Russia

The Canadian, who has four F2 wins to his credit this year, heads to Sochi occupying P2 in the Drivers’ Championship. He is 59 points behind title leader Nyck de Vries, with 96 still up for grabs across the four remaining races in Russia and Abu Dhabi.

The semi-permanent Sochi Autodrom will host Russia’s F2 round this weekend and, as a venue that winds its way between sports arenas that were used during the 2014 Winter Olympics, will provide a distinctive backdrop to the latest chapter in the F2 title story.

“Getting towards the end of the year the goal is always the same – to score as many points as possible. But as the rounds are counting down you want to make sure you’re still consistently scoring those points as there’s less rounds to make up what you lose,” Nicholas said.

“It was a bit of a shame to lose some points at Monza last time out, because that unfortunately means the title chase isn’t really in my hands at the moment. I can have an amazing last two rounds and Nyck can score some average points and still win the title.

“My focus is to get the best performance, get those big points, fight for those podiums and wins and we’ll see what happens. Mathematically I know it’s still more than possible but realistically it’ll be difficult. We’re still going to fight for it, though!”
Nicholas, who holds the role of ROKiT Williams Racing’s Formula 1 reserve driver, claimed a podium finish at the 5.85km-long Sochi Autodrom in 2018 and is confident that he and his DAMS team can fight for the leading positions once more this season.

“Sochi is a track where we had our best result last year, both me and the team, so that brings confidence going into the weekend,” he explained.

“We were quick both in qualifying and that race, so the confidence is high. I’m not worried about my performance, I know we’ll be at the sharp end of the grid but it’s about having a clean weekend and coming away with some big points.

“You get a bit of a street track feeling in Sochi even though it’s not a pure street track. There’s a lot of corners that are very similar in nature in that a lot of them are 90-degree corners or just above, so you get the same rhythm and flow through most of the lap.

“That makes it a bit simpler from a set-up point of view as normally you’re trying to find a good overall balance, whereas the range of corners is similar, so getting that sweet spot is an advantage.”

Practice and qualifying will take place on Friday, with Saturday’s F2 Feature Race scheduled for 16:45 local time (GMT+3). Sunday’s Sprint Race will begin at 11:20.