3 September 2017

Nicholas scythes through the Monza spray for another F2 podium finish

Nicholas Latifi scored his seventh podium of the 2017 FIA Formula 2 Championship campaign at Monza in Italy this weekend (1-3 September), with a cool, calm and composed performance in treacherous weather conditions.

Having lapped 13th quickest in free practice, Nicholas struggled in qualifying around the legendary ‘Temple of Speed’, winding up a disappointing P14 on the grid after struggling to establish a good feeling behind the wheel of his Dams Racing machine.

“We started a bit on the back foot in practice, and this is one track where it’s important to be ready for qualifying,” the Canadian said. “Qualifying itself was then a bit of a mystery. We were nowhere, even with a good slipstream around the whole lap. This has been the first track where the set-up we were using just didn’t seem to work – but at least the drivers we are fighting with in the championship didn’t have a good session either.”

As the heavens opened with a vengeance on Saturday, the decision was taken to shorten the Feature Race, which was then briefly delayed by a series of formation laps to assess the precarious grip level and an aborted start.

When the action did belatedly get underway, Nicholas immediately showcased his wet-weather prowess by leaping from P14 to P9 on the opening lap, making light of the lack of visibility caused by rooster tails of spray.

Maturely biding his time, the Renault Sport F1 Team test driver advanced to P8 by mid-distance and with the track beginning to dry, he pitted on lap 17 for a fresh set of Pirelli tyres. With the light fading fast, a late Safety Car period set the scene for a dramatic shoot-out during the final few laps, and Nicholas came out on top in an entertaining duel with Alexander Albon to move up to sixth.

A collision for the lead on the last lap elevated the 22-year-old to P4, with a post-race time penalty for one of his rivals subsequently promoting Nicholas to P3. Fastest lap capped an impressive performance and gave the Silverstone Sprint Race winner another two championship points.

“It was a difficult race to manage in the slippery conditions,” reflected Nicholas, who is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2017. “I wasn’t really that quick to begin with, and it wasn’t until halfway that I was able to see past the spray and get a bit more confidence to up the speed. By that point, I was matching, more-or-less, the pace of the leaders.

“I kept my nose clean and sure, I got lucky with some of the cars in front going off and getting damaged, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’ve had my fair share of bad luck this year too – it can strike any driver at any time.”

Nicholas began today’s shorter Sprint Race from P6, passing Feature Race winner Antonio Fuoco on lap five and going on to engage in a fierce duel with Sean Gelael for P4. But, racing in a busy front-running pack, Nicholas’s tyres degraded considerably and some front wing end plate damage and a couple of overshoots at the first chicane didn’t help his cause as he slipped to P16 at the chequered flag.

“I was really confident we could fight for the win because managing tyre degradation is my strong suit,” he explained. “From early on, though, I could feel there wasn’t a lot of grip with the car and was really struggling to maintain the pace. After that, it was a snowball effect.

“From my side, it was a big missed opportunity, particularly with some of my main rivals not scoring very well here, so we need to analyse the situation carefully.

“It’s still close at the front of the championship and there’s plenty of points on the table at the last two rounds. We need to come back strongly at Jerez and Abu Dhabi, which are both tracks I like.”