Nicholas Latifi is determined to bounce back from the disappointment experienced in the latest rounds of the FIA Formula 2 Championship at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, where circumstances beyond his control robbed the Canadian of the chance to continue his recent run of strong form.
The race weekend at the super-fast Belgian circuit started brightly for the 22-year-old, who qualified on the front row of the grid in challenging wet-but-drying conditions.
It was Nicholas’s best starting position yet in the series and further proof of his growing ability to successfully exploit the Pirelli tyres and Dallara chassis to maximum effect.
He had his eyes firmly on a podium finish, but immediately prior to the Feature Race on Saturday afternoon, disaster struck: the 4.0-litre V8 engine in Nicholas’s car suffered a freak failure before he had even taken up his grid position and he was unable to take the start.
“It was a big shame that the engine blew because it was a big opportunity to score some important points,” reflected Nicholas. “I had out-qualified two of the competitors I’m trying to beat in the championship, so the failure was frustrating.
“The engine that failed was brand-new at the previous race in Hungary. We think one of the pistons broke and blew up inside the cylinder. I had two seconds of warning, lifted off the throttle and then it just went boom!”
The unexpected drama put a dent in Nicholas’s aspirations for the weekend, because the grid for Sunday’s Sprint Race is determined by the finishing position of the Feature Race. Hence Nicholas found himself down in P18 on the grid for the 18-lap encounter.
However, the DAMS Racing driver vowed to attack from the start and, racing on the medium-compound Pirelli tyre, which he enjoys, he delivered on that promise, making up nine positions during the race to finish in P9.
Any chance of moving up into the points-paying top-eight positions was stymied when the safety car was deployed for the final four laps due to an accident and the race was neutralised.
“Starting close to the back in the Sprint Race was hard because I didn’t have any experience in the Feature Race to know how the car was reacting on the track. I had to explore and find my way as I went,” Nicholas said.
“In terms of positives from this weekend, qualifying on the front row and achieving my best-ever qualifying position in F2 was pleasing, because that’s been an area of the race weekend I’ve been trying to improve on.
“Also, I think I got the best result I could from the Sprint Race. It was fun being involved in the battles – overtaking four cars on one lap just before the safety car was deployed was a highlight.”
Nicholas will get an immediate opportunity to get back on the points-scoring trail as the F2 series moves to the Monza circuit in Italy next weekend (1-3 September).
“We head to Monza straight away and that’s a good thing, because it doesn’t give me much time to dwell on Spa,” he said. “Back-to-back race weekends is the best situation after this kind of disappointment.
“I need to bounce back strongly at Monza because I can’t really afford another mechanical problem or racing incident, especially in the all-important Feature Race.”
Nicholas, who is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2017, is now fifth in the FIA F2 standings with three events remaining.