Canadian racing driver Nicholas Latifi made a successful return to his FIA Formula Two Championship cockpit this week, racking up a marathon 173 laps during the final pre-season test.
Nicholas, who was sidelined from the Paul Ricard test earlier this month because of illness, experienced the new-for-2018 F2 car for the first time at the Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain – which will host the first round of the season in two weeks’ time.
The Dams Racing driver arrived at the three-day test just as he was given the all-clear by his medical team to get back behind the wheel and was pleased with the results of the testing programme he carried out.
However, the 22-year-old did admit to feeling he had some catching up to do compared to the rest of the drivers who had already completed four days of testing.
“I definitely felt on the back foot when I started driving because it’s a completely new car compared to 2017 and I missed valuable track time at Paul Ricard,” Nicholas explained.
“The way you have to drive this car is different, and that goes for the turbo engine as well. The handling characteristics have changed because it is a heavier car, so there is quite a lot to figure out and I had a lot less time to do it.”
As well as learning the new car, Nicholas also practiced a number of racing procedures, especially race starts with this year’s new clutch system.
“These clutches are tricky to manage, and plenty of drivers were stalling pulling out of the pits and during practice starts,” he said. “I’ve had less time to get used to the new unit, so I had to get up to speed quickly.
“The good thing is that the first race is in Bahrain, so I can apply what I learned almost straightaway and on familiar ground.”
Physically, Nicholas was almost back to his old self, but he did feel the effects of an enforced break from training during his recuperation.
He added: “While driving there were no issues at all, there was a bit of fatigue around mid-day – more than I’d normally get – a few dips in energy that I normally don’t have, but nothing that would affect me.
“I have another two weeks to bring my fitness levels back up, so I can feel that much better while I’m driving.”
The first round of the Formula Two championship takes place on 6-8 April. Nicholas’s 2018 campaign is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.