F2 Graduates: Nicholas Latifi
Welcome back to the series on InsideF2.com where we look at some of the most famous graduates of our beloved Formula 2!
In this edition we’ll be taking a look at the latest man to move up from Formula 2, Nicholas Latifi.
As the latest Formula 1 debutant, Latifi hasn’t been able to leave his mark at the top level yet, with a best finish of 11th for Williams, achieving the position in both Austria and Italy.
Latifi was a relative late-comer to motorsport, beginning his karting career aged 13. However, he soon moved up the ranks, joining the FIA Formula 3 series in 2013.
The results weren’t spectacular. He secured regular points finishes that year, but there were no wins or even podiums. It was a similar story in 2014, although the points flowed more easily.
It was at the back end of 2014 when Latifi debuted in GP2, the series now known as Formula 2. The Canadian replaced Daniel Abt for the final round of the season at Yas Marina, finishing 22nd and 17th that weekend in an uncompetitive car.
In 2015 Latifi combined a tough Formula Renault 3.5 campaign with occasional appearances in Formula 2 with MP Motorsport.
In seven races he scored a best finish of 11th in Bahrain, securing a deal to drive full-time for DAMS the following year.
And immediately, Latifi impressed. At the opening race of the season in Barcelona, he took his maiden F1 points and his first podium, finishing second behind Norman Nato.
The rest of the season was more difficult. Latifi scored just five more points in the entire season, finishing up 16th in the standings.
After a poor first full season in the series, Latifi began to star when the series became Formula 2. DAMS were more competitive in 2017 and Latifi took advantage, taking a podium in Spain before a pair of P3 finishes in Baku.
Second in the Austrian Feature Race built his confidence, and he finally took his first Formula 2 victory in the Sprint Race at Silverstone. Four further podiums followed, securing Latifi fifth in the championship.
For 2018 Latifi was a step closer to Formula 1, joining Force India as test and reserve driver, making five appearances in FP1 sessions, including at his home event in Canada
Back in Formula 2, Latifi was joined by Alexander Albon at DAMS, and the Thai driver had the measure of his teammate.
Albon took four wins on his way to third in the championship and a call-up from Toro Rosso, whilst Latifi could only manage the one victory and less than half of Albon’s points total.
He finished ninth in the standings, and it seemed like it was now or never for a title challenge when 2019 rolled around.
Latifi knew he had to up his game, and he did exactly that. He won the first race of the season in Bahrain, and backed that up with a drive through the field to take third the next day.
He won the Feature Race in Baku and then continued his momentum by winning the Feature Race in Spain, taking a commanding championship lead.
However, a drop in form as Nyck De Vries found his mojo saw the Dutchman take top spot away from Latifi.
Latifi was now playing catch up. He took P2 and P1 in the Feature events in Britain and Hungary, but a weekend without points at Monza saw De Vries within touching distance of the crown.
Victory at the next event in Sochi confirmed De Vries’ title, although Latifi did everything he could, following home in second.
Soon after, Latifi was confirmed to be joining George Russell at Williams in Formula 1 for 2020, but there was one thing he needed to finish first.
DAMS were leading the Formula 2 constructors’ standings, but there was still the threat of UNI-Virtuosi. Latifi wanted to secure the title for the team that had treated him so well, and they did so, with Latifi scoring 20 points in Abu Dhabi.
Following the end of the season and his time in Formula 2, Latifi paid tribute to the DAMS team and their late founder Jean-Paul Driot on his website: “It marks the end of my journey in Formula 2, and more importantly my journey with DAMS. I learned a lot about myself as a driver and as a human being these last four years, experiencing the highs and lows, I feel better off for all of it.
“I must thank everyone at DAMS. Their support has been incredible. They helped me to keep pushing all the time and shaped me into the driver I am today.
“And to Jean-Paul especially. Without him I would not be in the position I am today. He took a big risk on me in 2016 when I first joined the team as a rookie. He had the faith, he kept believing.
“This weekend we won the Teams’ Championship, which is what it’s all about for the guys. To reward them all, and Jean-Paul, means the most to me.”
Latifi has made progress throughout the 2020 F1 season. He may not have scored points yet, but he’s already been signed up for 2021. In an improving Williams team, let’s hope that Formula 2’s most recent graduate can get himself into the top 10 sooner rather than later.
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*Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited