Canadian racing driver Nicholas Latifi made a successful Grand Prix weekend debut earlier today when he represented the Sahara Force India F1 Team in the Free Practice 1 (FP1) session at the Canadian Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old has been working with the British-based team, which currently occupies sixth place in F1’s constructors’ standings, since the start of 2018 as its official reserve and test driver.
Nicholas’s FP1 outing at the 4.36km Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve – in place of regular driver Sergio Perez – was another important step in his bid to earn a place on the Formula One grids of the future.
Today’s 90-minute session in Montreal marked the first time Nicholas had driven a Formula One car on home soil and in front of the fans that regularly support him when he races in the FIA Formula Two Championship.
Nicholas completed 28 laps during his debut FP1 session and recorded a fastest lap of 1:17.145. Today’s experience behind the wheel of Force India’s VJM11 chassis – and on the streets of the city where he was born – has left Nicholas hungry for more.
“It was a great experience and it was a special feeling pulling out of the pit lane with a big smile on my face,” he explained. “There were definitely more people in the stands compared to what I’m usually used to during a Friday practice [in Formula Two] but that’s one of the great things about Montreal. It’s definitely one of the busiest Fridays of the year and it was especially nice to see all the Canadian fans on my last lap with their flags waving to me.
“You always want to drive more, especially now that FP1 has finished. For sure, I’d love nothing more than to jump back in the car for FP2 and all the other sessions during the weekend. But I’m here to learn as well. I can learn a lot from sitting in on the debriefs and following the sessions. As much as you learn from driving yourself, you do learn from listening to the experienced drivers and obviously we have two great drivers in the team in Sergio and Esteban.”
Nicholas revealed the targets during his maiden FP1 session were for him to complete some crucial aero running and to help the Force India engineers gather important data that can then be used to fine-tune the team’s performance during the remaining on-track sessions in Montreal this weekend.
He said: “The team was generous and they kept it relatively simple for me. There was basically just a lot of aero running and gathering the data by doing the laps I needed to do. In that regard, it was fairly straight forward.”
With the dust now settled after his first Grand Prix weekend appearance, Nicholas is hoping he gets another shot in the VJM11 chassis at another FP1 session between now and the end of the 2018 season. But until then, he’s happy that he got the chance to continue his F1 learning in front of the people that have supported his career so strongly since he took his first steps as a racing driver at the age of 13.
“All my family, besides from my immediate family, live here in Montreal so there was a nice group out to watch me and a lot of friends as well. I definitely felt the support,” he said.