Canada’s Nicholas Latifi continued his stellar form in the FIA Formula 2 Championship by scoring P2 and P6 finishes during a pair of thrilling races in Hungary this weekend.
The 22-year-old, fresh from his first F2 victory at Silverstone earlier this month, was fifth quickest in free practice around the Hungaroring, but the DAMS Racing driver was slightly disappointed to qualify in P7.
“I put in a good banker lap in qualifying and was quite confident that if I improved by two tenths on my second lap I would qualify on the front row,” Nicholas said. “Sadly, I got blocked on that lap. But I knew my race pace would be strong so I didn’t dwell on it too much.”
In the 36-lap Feature Race in hot weather on Saturday, Nicholas came within 0.2sec of claiming a second F2 success in as many races.
He seized P4 at the start and moved up to P3 with a confident overtake on lap eight. Once Nicholas made a compulsory pit stop for new medium compound rubber, he was soon back to P3, right in the wheeltracks of team-mate Oliver Rowland and Artem Markelov.
Nicholas said: “I took advantage of the pace on the prime tyre after the pit stop and pushed Markelov as he caught traffic. Although I caught him, I wasn’t quite quick enough to overtake him easily.
“I decided to save my tyres for an attack and when the safety car came out and bunched the field up – that allowed me to fight for victory again.”
When racing resumed, Nicholas moved up to P2 when Markelov crashed. He almost seized the lead but another safety car effectively ended the race.
“When we had the restart, Oliver looked to be struggling, but when I went for the lead I got squeezed out wide,” Nicholas explained. “I was pleased to finish P2, but also frustrated, because had I started where I should have started I could have challenged for victory.”
The result handed Nicholas his sixth podium finish of the season and he posted the fastest lap of the race to earn two extra championship points.
In Sunday’s 28-lap Sprint Race, Nicholas started P7 and was soon chasing Norman Nato for P6.
“My start was average, but our race pace was really good,” he said. "I went fast to catch Nato but I damaged my front wing at the restart after a safety car period – it was a case of cold tyres and cold brakes for me and I touched his car!”
Despite the damage, Nicholas moved up to finish in P6 and scored more valuable points that ultimately strengthen his grip on P4 in the F2 points standings.
“It is a positive set of results to take into the summer break. I’ve also reduced the gap to the third-placed driver in the championship, which is great,” Nicholas said.
"It's been a satisfying weekend, but when I have a good Feature Race I need to build on the Saturday success by moving a bit further forward in the Sprint Race. That's something I'll work on when we return to racing at the end of August.”
Nicholas, who is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2017, now turns his attention to his official test of the Renault R.S.17 Formula 1 car at the Hungaroring this week.
“Driving the latest car will be a fantastic opportunity. I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead,” he said.
The FIA F2 Championship resumes at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium on Aug. 25-27.