Nicholas Latifi said his Formula Two race weekend in Barcelona was “a missed opportunity” after a start line stall effectively ruined his chances of success at the championship’s third round.
The 22-year-old Canadian was one of the pace-setters at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in 2017 and carried the same speed into this year’s race weekend. After qualifying P6 for Saturday’s Feature Race, he appeared well positioned to fight at the front once again.
But when the lights went out, the engine in Nicholas’s car stalled. And by the time it was restarted and he got underway, Nicholas trailed the lead by almost two minutes.
He fought hard nonetheless, recording the fastest lap of the race en route to a P14 finish. But compared to his 20 point haul at last month’s round in Baku, it was a bitterly disappointing outcome.
“The start of the Feature Race pretty much ruined the whole weekend,” Nicholas acknowledged. “It’s a big missed opportunity because it put me way out of position for the second race too – and Barcelona is a very difficult track to make up positions.”
Nicholas impressed with his starting form in Baku, where in the Sprint Race he leapt from P4 into the lead by the first corner. But the introduction in Spain of a clutch software upgrade to the whole F2 field had knock-on implications to his DAMS Racing machine.
“F2 introduced new software to try and improve the clutch action,” Nicholas explained. “But in combination with the mapping adjustments we had made already, based on how the clutch was behaving on previous rounds, it ended up doing the opposite.
“The car just didn’t react as it should have. I was releasing the clutch very slowly, almost all the way to the end of the paddle, and the car still wasn’t moving. Then, right at the end, in the last millimetre, it came in at once. There was nothing I could have done to avoid that.
“It was a big shame. When I got going I had good pace, but I needed a safety car to have any chance of catching up – and unfortunately this time we had only VSC periods.”
Nicholas started Sunday’s Sprint Race from P14, with six places to make up if he was to salvage any points.
“There was a difficult mix of damp and dry conditions at the beginning, so I made quite a conservative start to be safe,” Nicholas explained. “The pace was okay, I kept out of trouble and got up to P8. But the track dried more quickly that I had expected and with 10 laps to go I had no tyres left. I did all I could to keep the position – it’s probably the hardest point I’ve had to work for in my driving career.”
Nicholas will remain in Barcelona this week for his first appearance as Sahara Force India Formula One team’s Reserve and Test Driver. He will drive this season’s VJM11 car at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Tuesday and Wednesday (15 and 16 May).
Nicholas will return to F2 competition at round four when the series visits the iconic Circuit de Monaco (24-26 May). His F2 campaign in 2018 is supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.