The final round of the FIA Formula Two Championship at Abu Dhabi failed to live up to its potential for Nicholas Latifi, after early Qualifying success was undone by a double dose of misfortune.
The omens looked good on Friday, when the Canadian stormed to P3 in Qualifying, putting his DAMS Racing machine on the second row for Saturday’s Feature Race at the Yas Marina Circuit – and on course to repeat his podium form in 2017.
But when the lights went out, Nicholas’s race came to a sudden end. His car was one of three to stall on the line, including the identical machine of his team-mate Alex Albon. Marooned on the front straight, Nicholas’s car was struck from behind by the Trident of Arjun Maini, who was unsighted as he accelerated away from the back row.
The enormous impact all but destroyed Nicholas’s car. Thankfully he was able to climb out of the wreckage shaken but otherwise uninjured.
“There’s not really much to say about what happened. The engine stalled, despite being at full throttle, then I got hit quite hard – and that was it.” Nicholas explained. “It was a shock but I was physically fine, and the other driver was okay as well, thankfully.”
“It was a massive disappointment, especially considering my grid position. Starting up at the front I really thought there was a good opportunity to fight for the Feature Race win. I was also a few places in front of my team mate who was on the same strategy, so I was well positioned for the pit stop.”
“Why the car stalled I don’t know, but after the problems in this area earlier in the year, it’s clear there are still some issues with this F2 car. With 620 horsepower on tap, when the throttle is flat you should never stall – regardless of what you do with the clutch. There was an update to the rev limiter before this weekend, and even at full throttle I could feel the revs were much lower than normal. I’m not sure if that caused it, or contributed to it, but it’s something for them to look at.”
After a satisfactory check-up by the circuit medical team, and a late night for his DAMS mechanics, Nicholas and his repaired car were back on track for Sunday’s Sprint race, only for the engine to stall once again when the lights went out.
“We had reverted to the previous rev limiter and I was more conservative with my start procedure, and still it stalled. It felt like a double slap in the face,” Nicholas said.
Once restarted, he rejoined at the back of the field and a lap down on his rivals. “There was nothing to fight for, so I just did my best and compared my lap times to those of the leaders,” Nicholas said. “I tried to drive as fast a race as possible, and I was satisfied with my pace, but ultimately I was racing for nothing. Quite probably the worst way to end the season, but it is what it is.”
With the 2018 racing season now complete, Nicholas will remain in Abu Dhabi for the three-day F2 test which gets underway on Thursday. “I’ll dust myself down and reset ready for the test. We have three days before I get back in the car, and that gives us time for a thorough analysis. Then it’s back behind the wheel, when the focus will be on coming back stronger,” he said.