Latifi, who turned 22 last week, vaulted to fifth in the drivers’ championship when he secured a pair of third-place finishes in Azerbaijan, and he hopes to maintain that momentum when the fifth round of the F2 series gets underway with free practice and qualifying on Friday.
“I feel pretty confident coming off a good double podium weekend in Baku. It’s given a lot of confidence to myself and the team. I feel my championship is back on track and I have good momentum. I hope that will help me in Austria,” the Renault Sport F1 Team test driver said.
“I’m hoping to score good, consistent points in both races but obviously the goal is to finish a few steps higher on the podium. Following the podium in the Baku Feature Race with another from sixth on the grid in the Sprint, showed it was no fluke or luck. I’ve showed consistently that I can be a front runner and a podium contender for every race. After coming so close to a win in Barcelona, there’s no reason why I can’t do that again.”
The DAMS Racing driver attributed his recent upturn in form to the work that he has done to improve his pace on the first day of an F2 race weekend. Being able to qualify strongly is vital in F2 because it not only improves a driver’s chances in the Feature Race but it also means scoring points is more likely during Sunday’s Sprint Race as well.
“My focus recently has been on stronger qualifying and part of that is to be stronger in free practice too,” he explained. “I was P8 in free practice in Baku, my best position in F2 or GP2, so I’ll be putting a strong emphasis on being quicker in practice in Austria too.
“If I can do that, it means there’s less of a jump to make from practice to qualifying. I have been able to make that jump in the past, but it makes it harder. We saw last year in Austria that the lap time difference from practice to qualifying is very minimal – like a three-tenth improvement – so it’s even more important to be quick in practice so you are closer to the qualifying pace.”
One of the keys to success this weekend will be having the ability to find some clean air on the 4.32km Spielberg track that is notoriously compact and features only nine corners, compared to the 19 corners that made up a lap of Baku’s street circuit last month. Traffic could present a big problem and that’s something Nicholas is aware of.
He said: “On most tracks drivers try to create a gap to the car ahead before a hot lap and that means slowing in the final section. The problem in Austria is that the second half is all high speed. It’s difficult to judge what people are doing, and that can lead to traffic.
“But it’s a track I like quite a bit. It’s smooth and not too abrasive or hard on the tyres. It’s quite high speed, fast and flowing and for a good lap every corner has to be spot on.”
Nicholas’s bid for FIA Formula 2 Championship success is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2017.