Nicholas Latifi is targeting a repeat of last year’s double podium-winning form when he returns to Azerbaijan’s Baku City Circuit this week for round two of the FIA F2 Championship (27–29 April).
The 22-year-old Canadian collected two third places at the track in 2017, banishing the disappointment of a mechanical failure at the previous round.
This year, after a challenging season debut in Bahrain, Nicholas is again aiming to get his title challenge back on track at Baku’s high-speed street circuit.
“The main objective is to have a strong comeback weekend,” Nicholas explained. “I was disappointed to come away from Bahrain without any points. The stall on the grid in race two was especially costly. Getting back to tenth place after starting from the pit lane showed the pace was good, and I feel I missed out on a strong points-winning opportunity.
“The goal for Baku is to recover a bit of momentum. Last year the race was a comeback as well – coming off the back of Monaco where I had a mechanical failure. That turned out quite well with the double podium and I’m hoping for more of the same this weekend.”
Nicholas is a fan of street circuits and Baku is one of his favourites. At 6.003km long, it’s one of the longest laps in the F2 calendar, notable for a flat-out 2.2km straight on which cars reach more than 300kmh.
“Street circuits are always special, but with its long straight Baku is a specific challenge,” Nicholas said. “The races always seem to throw up a few surprises, and often you need a bit of luck because there are so many variables that can be difficult to manage in the race.
“I know what I need to do to have a good weekend in Baku and that begins with a strong qualifying – because starting nearer the front puts you clear of the mess that will most likely happen! That’s going to be the key and it’s a track that suits my driving style – especially in qualifying. I know how to drive fast there and I want to make that experience count.”
In the three weeks since Bahrain, Nicholas has spent time with his DAMS Racing team in France, analysing data gathered during the opening round and his first races in the 2018-spec F2 car.
“I now understand more about the differences between this car and last year’s – how you have to set it up for the race, how you have to set it up for qualifying, and how you have to drive it in the race,” Nicholas said.
“It was a longer trip to DAMS than normal because there was more to go over from Bahrain with the new car. There were still some unknowns going into those races, and a major topic of our discussions has been starts and clutch management.
“I think it took me a race weekend to understand a few things, and I’m confident the knowledge the team and I gained will help us straight away in Baku.”
This week’s timetable begins with practice on Friday morning, followed that afternoon by qualifying, which will determine the grid for Saturday’s 29-lap Feature Race. The weekend rounds off on Sunday with a 21-lap Sprint Race.
Nicholas’s F2 campaign in 2018 is supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.