Nicholas Latifi was a points winner in both races at the fourth round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship in Monaco this weekend, but he left the Principality frustrated not to have achieved more.
The 22-year-old Canadian proved he had race-leading pace by setting second quickest time during Thursday’s Practice.
But his chances of battling with the front-runners in both races were knocked by an incident-filled Qualifying session that left him 18th on the grid for Friday’s Feature Race at a track where overtaking is almost impossible.
A battling performance enabled Nicholas to progress to P9, and claim two points, while another fight back on Saturday, this time from an early puncture, netted another point for P8 and a further two for setting the fastest lap of the race. But considering his pace, and his liking for street circuits, it’s a weekend Nicholas is keen to put behind him.
“It’s been one of those weekends,” he acknowledged. “Five points is definitely not what I wanted here, we had the potential for much more. It turned out to be a tough weekend, and most of that stems from my mistakes in Qualifying.”
Pre Qualifying, the omens had looked good, and Nicholas was in confident form. “The goal was to start off strong in Practice and I felt comfortable right away,” he said. “I was able to build the pace nicely, every time I was free of traffic I was setting purple sectors. Finishing P2 was confidence inspiring.
“We made a few adjustments before Qualifying and for some reason I didn’t feel as comfortable with the car. I just didn’t feel it like I had in Practice. I made two big mistakes in both my push laps – almost ending up in the wall on both occasions. A red flag at the end meant I had no time for a third run.”
Starting the Feature Race from the back of the grid, Nicholas faced a huge challenge if he was to make up ground on the notoriously tight and twisty circuit.
“We chose the prime option tyre strategy, planning to stay out as long as possible, hoping for a safety car,” he explained. “I managed my tyres well, and 35 laps in I was setting good times relative to everyone else on new tyres.
“Given the circumstances, P9 was the best result we could have achieved. One more position though, and a pole for Saturday, could have changed the outcome of the whole weekend.”
Nicholas got off to another strong start in Saturday’s Sprint Race. Leaving the line from P9, he made up one position immediately and tried for a second overtake later in the opening lap.
“I made a move on Roberto Merhi on the outside at the hairpin because I could see he was blocked on the inside,” Nicholas explained, “For me the move was done, I completed it cleanly, left him plenty of room, but it seemed he didn’t want to give it up and he opened the wheel to squeeze me out. His front wing hit my front-left tyre and it punctured.
“I pitted for a pair of the worn tyres we used on Friday. I had lots of understeer, but I managed things as best as I could, hoping that events would happen up ahead and I could make up places.”
With 10 laps to go, Nicholas pitted again for a set of supersofts. “It was a chance to pick up a couple of points for a fastest lap,” he said. “I got the quickest lap, then two cars crashed out and I was P10 and eligible for the points. Then another two crashed and that was P8.”
“Okay, three points today is some consolation but I was feeling quite good with the car in the Sprint race and I know it could have been a better weekend.
“The positives were that I was quick in Practice, and I had good starts in both races. I know I was capable of doing a decent Qualifying, but I couldn’t put it together when it mattered.”
Nicholas has a change of car now as he prepares to make his Formula One FP1 session debut with the Sahara Force India F1 Team at next month’s Canadian Grand Prix. He will resume his F2 campaign at Circuit Paul Ricard in France from 22 – 24 June.
Nicholas said: “I’m very excited about the FP1 session at my home Grand Prix. It will be good to change gear from F2 after a difficult start to the year. I look forward to restarting my season at the next round in Paul Ricard.”
Nicholas’s bid for FIA Formula 2 Championship success is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.