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 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.

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.

Nicholas rues missed opportunities at incident-packed Monza

Canadian racer Nicholas Latifi left this weekend’s FIA Formula 2 Championship round empty handed after a double dose of misfortune at Italy’s Autodromo Monza.

The 24-year-old began the tenth round of the season lying second in the drivers’ championship and determined to narrow the gap on leader Nyck de Vries.

Nicholas started Saturday’s Feature Race P6 on the grid after a rain-affected qualifying, and hopeful of taking points from his Dutch rival who was relegated to the back row after a fuel infringement.

Starting with soft tyres on his car, Nicholas quickly made up two positions and was locked in a tense battle with team-mate Sergio Sette Camara for P3 before he pitted for mediums.

But shortly after rejoining, Nicholas’s race was effectively over when he collided with Guanyu Zhou at Turn 4 and was forced to pit again for a new front wing. The incident plunged Nicholas down the order while Zhou was later penalised for the move.

“The rule is clear on defending position in this situation, you have to leave a car width, but he didn’t, he pushed me off track, and that’s why we touched,” Nicholas explained. “It was a massive disappointment during a race when I had a golden opportunity to outscore Nyck. In one move it was taken away.”

Having finished P13 on Saturday, Nicholas reset for another big push during Sunday’s Sprint Race. Again however, the race turned out to be one to forget, following a spin on the way to the grid.

“Today was my mistake – driver error,” Nicholas acknowledged. “The track looked completely dry but at Turn 3 – the long flat-out right-hander – I was caught out by a damp patch in the shade under the trees. I hit it at high speed, spun, and flat-spotted all four tyres. The fronts were especially bad.

“After that I didn’t have a chance to fight. I was missing so much performance from the tyres in the corners, understeering everywhere and with such massive vibrations on the straights I almost couldn’t see through my visor. I was fighting a losing battle.

“I clung on to see if I could get a point or two, but P10 was the best I could do. My race was over before it started. It’s a huge shame and I feel bad for the team – they deserved more from the weekend. All I can do is learn from it and move on.”

The penultimate round of the championship will be held at Sochi, Russia from 27 – 29 September. Now trailing De Vries by 59 points in the title race, Nicholas accepted his title chances are looking slim.

“Mathematically it’s still possible, so of course I will give it everything, but Nyck now has a good chance of claiming the title at the next round,” he said.

“While Sochi was a good track for me last year, the title fight isn’t really in my hands any more. The focus has to be on consolidating P2 in the drivers’ championship and keeping the lead for DAMS in the teams’ standings.”

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.

Nicholas resumes F2 title hunt in Hungary

Canada’s Nicholas Latifi will continue his quest for the FIA Formula 2 Championship title when racing resumes this weekend at the Hungaroring circuit in Hungary (2 – 4 August).

Nicholas heads to the venue, located on the outskirts of capital city Budapest, second in the championship, having taken three wins so far this season.

After a difficult time in Austria, Nicholas returned to the podium places at the most recent round in Britain and closed the gap on the F2 title lead.

Fresh from a three-week break, Nicholas will be back behind the wheel of his DAMS-run car for this weekend’s eighth round of the 12-event season.

“I’ve had some good results in Hungary before, so I’m feeling very positive about the week ahead,” said the 24-year-old, a previous visitor to the podium at the circuit in Formula 2.

“It’s a very different type of circuit to Silverstone. The Hungaroring is tighter and more twisty, a little like Monaco, so there’s not a lot of time for the tyres – and the driver – to cool down.

“Budapest in the middle of summer is often very hot as well, so it’s important we keep a close eye on tyre degradation.

“I’m eager to get going again after an exciting weekend at Silverstone where I got my momentum back after a tough few rounds.”

Last year’s visit to Hungary marked a crucial point in Nicholas’s F2 campaign.

“After a difficult period, Budapest was a turning point in understanding the new F2 car and how best to adapt myself to it,” he explained.

“From then on it was an upward trend, so I’m looking forward to going back there and putting that experience to good use.”

The 4.38km Hungaroring is sometimes likened to a kart track because of its narrow and twisty nature, while the lack of long straights makes overtaking difficult. It’s a circuit where it is important to have good one-lap pace to secure a strong grid position.

“Qualifying at the front at this track makes the races easier, and I know I can be competitive there from previous experiences,” Nicholas said.

“I’ve consistently been towards the front in qualifying this year, and that’s been crucial in getting the points, so it will be important to try and continue my charge.

“Obviously I’d love to get a pole position, but being more consistent across the whole year is more important for me.”

Nicholas’s race weekend begins on Friday with practice and the qualifying session, which determines the grid order for Saturday’s 37-lap Feature Race at 1010hrs (GMT+2). Sunday’s reverse-grid 28-lap Sprint Race will have lights out at 1125hrs.