Nicholas Latifi ecstatic about his test of a 2017 Renault F1 car

Canadian Nicholas Latifi, a regular FIA Formula 2 competitor, recently got his first taste of the 2017 Renault Formula 1 turbo hybrid car. Motorsport.com caught up with him in Montréal.

Nicholas Latifi ecstatic about his test of a 2017 Renault F1 car
Nicholas Latifi, DAMS
Nicholas Latifi, DAMS
Podium: third place Nicholas Latifi, DAMS
Nicholas Latifi, DAMS
Nicholas Latifi, DAMS
Nicholas Latifi, Renault F1 Team

Nicholas Latifi is contesting his second full season in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, a series née GP2. A member of the French DAMS outfit, Latifi currently ranks 8th in the drivers’ standings with 28 points and one podium.

The Canadian had joined Renault in a test driver role last year, completing his first F1 run in a 2012-vintage Lotus at Silverstone in May. Last month, he got to drive a 2017 R.S. 17 by participating in Pirelli's tire development work a month ago.

How did the test go? “It was the most fun I had on a race track,” Latifi told Motorsport.com. “The car was so quick in the corners… Yes, the car is a step up from what I’m used to drive in terms of power and braking, but the cornering speeds with the bigger tires and the wings is just unbelievable. It’s much, much faster than the Formula 2 car.”

He admits that the current car was massively different from the one he drove last year.

“Yes, it’s more complex than old normally aspirated V8 car of the first test last year,Latifi explained. The turbo hybrid R.S. 17 has more technology. The steering wheel is much more complex compared to the other car that had just LEDs and a couple of lights! Because it was a Pirelli test, we didn’t do any changes to the car. That’s stipulated in the rules. I obviously received the instructions on how to operate the car, such as going out of the pits, the in-lap, how to recharge the battery, things like that. But in terms of operating switches when I was driving, no, we didn’t do that."

The Barcelona incident

The Canadian was leading the second Formula 2 race held in Barcelona when he went off the track. He quickly recovered and managed the cross the line in third place. He took the time to explain what happened.

“Just before the incident, going onto the main straight, the whole rearview mirror – not just a reflective part – came off and hit my helmet,” Latifi said. “I didn’t know it was the mirror at the time. From my point of view, I’d hit something with the front wings. Because I’m tall, it looked like the debris came from the front of the car. But I couldn’t see any damage. I had a very big lead, and the race was mine. Just before entering Turn 5, I wasn’t looking at the mirror because it’s always in your peripheral vision. I said to myself ‘Something’s not there that’s supposed to be’. I got distracted for a fraction of a second; I braked too late, and went off the track. It’s not an excuse, but it happened.

“For me, it was the first time that I was leading a race in that series. In other series, like in Formula 3 or Formula 3.5, if you’re in the lead, most of the time you have the race won. But it’s not the case in Formula 2 because of the tire degradation. That was my biggest problem last year as I was always going backwards in the races. This year, Bahrain, Barcelona, and even the second race in Monaco, I was doing well. In Barcelona, I did everything well. Tires were good. I did the hard part, but unfortunately, I made that small mistake. Now I know I can win races,” he explained.

F2 remains a priority

Latifi went on to detail his role with the Renault F1 Team.

“I am a long-term test driver," Latifi said. "I have the exact same role as I had last year. I get to drive the current car, I spend a lot of time with the team, I participate in PR and marketing activities, I attend technical meetings, and besides that the team wants me back in the simulator. However, Formula 2 remains a priority over anything else. I am also a brand ambassador for Infiniti Canada. Formula 1 is a sport, but it’s also a business. Canada is quite a big market for Infiniti, in fact, it’s one of the biggest markets they have. As a Canadian racer, Infiniti want to use me to promote their involvement in motorsport and in F1.”

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Series FIA F2
Drivers Nicholas Latifi
Author René Fagnan
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