Canada’s Nicholas Latifi delivered a pair of standout performances at this weekend’s F2 Championship round in Baku, battling to a podium and a fifth place to kickstart his title campaign with a haul of 20 points.
The 22-year-old arrived in Azerbaijan aiming to bounce back from a difficult opening round in Bahrain, and while further disappointment during Friday’s qualifying didn’t help his cause, Nicholas was on sparkling form when it counted during the races.
Starting Saturday’s Feature Race from 20th on the grid, Nicholas deftly picked his way through the field and made up 15 positions to collect fifth place and 10 points.
Fourth on the grid for Sunday’s Sprint Race, Nicholas got a terrific start and vaulted into the lead by the first corner. Avoiding trouble in a frenetic race, he brought his DAMS car home in third place – his third podium from his last four outings in Baku.
“It’s been a really positive weekend. I’m happy to collect my first podium of the year and it feels good to get a useful haul of points on the board too,” Nicholas said. “To be honest, it’s also a relief to have an outcome like this after things got off to such a bad start in qualifying.”
Nicholas’s efforts in qualifying were hampered by two yellow flags near the end of critical laps. And as he approached the end of the session with no time on the board, he faced a difficult choice.
“The safe option would have been to drive conservatively and qualify somewhere near the middle, but instead I decided to go flat out,” Nicholas explained. “It was a risky strategy and unfortunately I pushed too hard, locked the rear tyres and spun. I had the pace for top five, but it turned out to be a Friday to forget.”
“In contrast Saturday was much better. As expected there was a lot to look out for in the Feature Race, like stalled cars and safety car restarts. The main thing was to kept a cool head and make no mistakes. It’s never good being in the position where you have to fight from the back, but considering where we started from I was happy to have recovered to P5.”
Having made some changes to the car, Nicholas began Sunday’s 21-lap Sprint Race from the second row with a textbook launch that fired him into the lead.
“The start was really good, but I struggled in the first few laps to get a confident feeling for the grip and that meant I couldn’t keep the pace,” he explained. “From leading to ending up third is not where I want to be, so we have some things to analyse, but still it was a fun race, with some great fights and there are lots of positives to take.”
Nicholas will return to F2 competition at round three when the series visits Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (11-13 May).
His F2 campaign in 2018 is supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.