The 2019 Formula 2 season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain with some new faces on the grid and a lot of surprises after an unusually unpredictable silly season. Normally, it is possible to figure out who is going to be where after the post-season test in Abu Dhabi, but this time what deals seemed to be done in December changed completely in January.
Some big names from last year are missing. Lando Norris and Alex Albon followed the 2018 champion George Russell in securing a Formula One seat, while Artem Markelov, who has become a fan favourite throughout the years, joined the Super Formula field in Japan. These departures could lead to a discussion on whether the talent in the grid has decreased, but we have to bear in mind that excellent drivers will make their debut in Bahrain even if they are not so well-known.
Among the youngsters approaching their first Formula 2 weekend we have last year’s GP3 Series top three. The champion Anthoine Hubert will enter the championship with BWT Arden in association with Mercedes’ feeder categories brand HWA despite the fact that he is a member of Renault Sport Academy. Nikita Mazepin, who has already tested in Formula 1 with Force India, will take part in the series with last year’s champions ART, and Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott will compete for the renamed Sauber Junior Team by Charouz. Even if they have proved their talent in the past, none of them are expected to be in the hunt for the big trophy after pre-season testing results, but for sure they will put on a good show and aim for podiums, even victories.
On the contrary, there is one man who is expected to fight for the championship from the beginning: Mick Schumacher. The son of the Formula One legend Michael Schumacher will drive for Prema, a team who won twice since they entered in 2016. Mick must not crack under pressure and confirm the speed showed last year in an outstanding second-half of the season which crowned him as FIA F3 European Champion. If he delivers, a seat in the 2020 Formula One grid is almost guaranteed for him.
Furthermore, Tatiana Calderón will be the first woman to race in the GP2 Series/FIA F2 since they started back in 2005. Partnering Hubert in BWT Arden, the Alfa Romeo Racing test driver will try to keep her momentum going to continue taking points as she did in the last five GP3 races.
Looking now at the battle for the championship, four F2 veterans are expected to fight the already mentioned Mick Schumacher. They are Nyck de Vries (ART), Sérgio Sette Câmara (DAMS), Luca Ghiotto (UNI Virtuosi Racing) and Louis Delétraz (Carlin). All of them were pace-setters in testing and are capable of performing at any track—only reliability issues or race incidents would prevent them from having a chance to become champions.
We should also keep and eye on Jack Aitken. If it is true that he struggled a lot during his maiden season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him challenging for race wins throughout the year. However, the fact that he drives for Campos Racing may keep him away from the championship battle.
Regarding this first weekend in Bahrain, it may bring some surprises given that qualifying conditions are not the same as race ones. Qualifying is scheduled in the night while races are in the afternoon when temperatures are their highest. Tyre degradation is set to play a very important role, allowing different strategies as we already saw in the past. In 2017, Charles Leclerc decided to pit during the sprint race when he started to suffer with his tyres and he was able to make an impressive comeback overtaking 14 cars to win the race on the last lap. Will we see something like that again this year? We will know on Sunday!
BWT Arden has announced that Tatiana Calderon will complete their lineup for the 2019 Formula 2 Championship.
Calderon, who has raced for Arden previously in the 2016 GP3 Championship, graduates to F2 on the back of a breakthrough year in 2018.
After joining Sauber as a development driver in 2017, Calderon developed into a regular points-scorer during last year’s GP3 campaign with Jenzer. Later in the year she drove Sauber’s C37 Formula 1 car during a filming day in Mexico, before completing a two-day test at Fiorano in the team’s 2013 C32.
She has also since taken part in two tests with the DS-Techeetah Formula E team, in Ad Diriyah and Marrakesh, as well as the post-season F2 test in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.
Speaking about her maiden F2 season, Calderon said: “I’m very excited to compete in the FIA F2 Championship with BWT Arden. It’s a new challenge in my career and a step closer to my ultimate goal to reach Formula 1.”
Arden team principal Garry Horner said he is “delighted to welcome Tatiana back into the Arden fold” after her “very impressive” results in her F2 and Formula E test outings.
Calderon will partner 2018 GP3 champion Anthoine Hubert, as BWT Arden enters a new technical partnership with HWA Racelab for 2019.
Since the (final) departure of Felipe Massa at the end of the 2017 season, Formula 1 has been without a Brazilian driver for the first time since 1969. It goes without saying that Brazil has long had an important presence on the grid, and has produced some of the true legends of the sport. So, who will be the next Brazilian hope?
Two teams have recently announced Brazilian additions to their test and reserve driver lineups. McLaren have appointed F2 race winner (and Lando Norris’ current Carlin teammate) Sergio Sette Câmara, while IndyCar driver Pietro Fittipaldi will take on the role of test driver at Haas.
But of the two, who is more likely to find themselves in a race seat in Formula 1 in years to come? Let’s take a look at their prospects.
Careers so far
2018 has been a difficult year for Fittipaldi. Plans for a packed season in IndyCar, Super Formula and the World Endurance Championship were put on hold by a leg-breaking crash during qualifying for the 6 Hours of Spa in May. However, he returned to IndyCar later in the year, scoring a best 9th place finish in Portland.
Prior to 2018, Fittipaldi was no stranger to variety, having tried his hand at everything from stock cars to endurance racing to European single seaters over the years. His results are a bit of a mixed bag on first glance, though there are some standout performances in there: in 2017 Fittipaldi won the World Series Formula V8 3.5 series, taking 10 out of 18 pole positions and 6 race wins.
Sette Câmara, a former Red Bull junior, has twice been heartbreakingly close to victory at the Macau Grand Prix. In 2016 he led comfortably for much of the race but ultimately lost out to two-time winner Antonio Felix da Costa. The following year he led until the very last corner of the final lap, but found himself in the wall with the finish line in sight defending against Ferdinand Habsburg.
In F2 this year, Sette Câmara’s shown a lot of promise and taken eight podiums so far, although an unfortunate dose of bad luck has left him adrift from teammate Lando Norris in the standings.
The only cross point of reference between Fittipaldi and Sette Câmara is the 2015 Formula 3 season. Sette Câmara finished the higher of the two with 57.5 points to Fittipaldi’s 32, and displayed good defence and some handy starts as well as scoring two podiums.
Super Licence Points
Of course, you can’t get into F1 these days if the numbers don’t add up, so it’s time to get the calculator out and see how these two would fare if they were after their super licence.
As it currently stands, neither driver is eligible to race in F1 next year. Due to his leg injuries benching him for much of this year, Fittipaldi has only 15 super licence points from his 2017 Formula V8 3.5 championship.
Sette Câmara is currently 6th in the F2 standings which would give him 10 points. However, he ’s a mere two points behind Artem Markelov in 5th, and overtaking him at the last round in Abu Dhabi would give him 20 points.
If he manages to outscore Markelov this year, another 5th place in F2 next year would see Sette Câmara become eligible for a 2020 F1 seat. If he remains in 6th, he’ll need a top four finish next year.
Fittipaldi is yet to announce his racing plans for 2019, but he will need another 25 points to bridge the gap. It will be a challenge for him to get these next year, as he’d need a top 4 F2 finish, or possibly a championship win in the new International F3 series (although the points for this series have not yet been announced). Either seems unlikely as he would be a rookie in what would likely be a very competitive field.
Age matters, or at least that’s been the trend of late in Formula 1. While at 22 Fittipaldi is hardly over the hill, he’s still got a long way to go before he is likely to collect the required super licence points and will likely be in his mid-twenties when that happens. (Fittipaldi’s younger brother Enzo may be a more likely prospect in years to come, having won the Italian F4 title this year as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.)
Time is more on Sette Câmara’s side. At 20, he’s still younger than most of the 2019 F1 field (excepting only Norris and Stroll) and his F2 performances have already got the attention of McLaren.
If there’s one area Sette Câmara could do with improving, it’s race pace. Lacklustre race pace isn’t the sort of drawback that can be easily fixed, but perhaps working closely with an F1 team like McLaren can improve his skills in this area.
However, while Sette Câmara does seem the more likely of the two Brazilians to find himself in an F1 race seat in the future, empty seats are not easy to come by these days. With contractual musical chairs seeing plenty of talented drivers without race seats in 2019, it’s going to take some poor showings by current drivers for Sette Câmara to be rewarded with an opportunity.
McLaren reserve driver Lando Norris will make his F1 race weekend debut at the Belgian Grand Prix, taking over Fernando Alonso’s car for Friday practice.
The running will mark Norris’ third time driving McLaren’s MCL33, following appearances at the in-season tests in Barcelona and Hungary, and could be followed by another FP1 drive next weekend at Monza.
McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran called the Friday practice role “part of [Norris’] ongoing development”. He added that the team would “take a strategic view race-by-race” whether to give Norris any more outings in future Grands Prix.
Coming after Alonso’s decision to leave F1 at the end of 2018, it’s understood that McLaren will use Norris’ Friday performances to judge whether he is ready for a promotion to F1 for next year in place of Stoffel Vandoorne.
Norris had been tipped to join McLaren in 2019 after storming to an early lead in this year’s Formula 2 championship. But a run of varying results in the mid-season triple header, which led to George Russell taking the title lead in Austria, have raised questions about whether next year is too soon for the 18-year-old to make his F1 debut.
Norris is currently 12 points behind Russell in the standings, and has one win to Russell’s four.
The 2018 Formula 2 championship kicked off in Bahrain this weekend, with a typically dramatic pair of races, giving us an insight into the brand new car and engine introduced this season, and our first chance to see how the 2018 grid stacks up against one another.
In a turn of events that was unsurprising to some, but impressive nonetheless, F3 champion Lando Norris bagged pole position in only his second round of F2. He narrowly beat fellow Brit and reigning GP3 champion George Russell, who edged out DAMS driver Alexander Albon who lined up third on the grid. Albon was only confirmed for the single round in Bahrain in a seemingly last minute deal, but his impressive performance out-qualifying his more experienced teammate by over half a second surely warrants another chance. Albon’s teammate Canadian Nicholas Latifi was not the only experienced driver who had failed to put together a complete lap in Friday qualifying, title favourite and last year’s runner-up Artem Markelov could only do as well as seventeenth.
Markelov’s weekend would only go from bad to worse when he lined up on the grid for the feature race on Saturday only to stall and be forced to start from the pit lane. He wasn’t the only one, with ex-Formula 1 driver Roberto Merhi also stalling, the first of several cases which prove that these new F2 cars are not the easiest machinery to get off the line.
It was a dream start for Lando Norris with some lightning quick reactions to get himself off the line, something which he will take a lot of confidence in given the starts were one of his few weaknesses during his 2017 F3 campaign. By contrast, Russell was slow to get moving and even impeded Prema driver Nyck de Vries who was starting behind him. It was not the start he needed if he wanted to get one back against Norris. Albon also found trouble in getting his car moving, and the two of them lost several places in the opening seconds of the race.
For Norris, from there it was a maturely handled race. His only hitch was a slow pit stop, but he had built himself a comfortable lead, so was able to retain this despite the hiccup. When the inevitable tyre degradation kicked in, as it always does around this track in the searing desert heat, he had enough of a cushion to be able to ease off slightly and bring his Carlin home safely. The dominant fashion in which he controlled the race was very reminiscent of some of current champion Charles Leclerc’s victories from last year.
Behind him was a much more chaotic story. While it was Norris’ race to control, it was Markelov’s show to steal. Despite starting from the very back of the field he used his uncanny ability to manage his tyres to pull off a whole host of his usual opportunistic overtakes. The rest of the grid wouldn’t let him make it look easy however, and some of the newer arrivals proved that they could fight just as hard. There was a thrilling moment when the Russian driver, Maximilian Günther and Jack Aitken attempted to go three wide into turn 1. But it was Markelov who bested them all in the end, fighting through almost the whole field to finish a fantastic third place.
After his poor start George Russell and ART attempted an undercut to gain some time back, and he did manage to finish in fifth in the end, but the tyre degradation was too great for him to gain any significant time back. This was the drawback of the Mercedes junior driver attempting to stop so early. The Pirelli tyres run in Formula 2 are notoriously high degradation, especially on a track like Bahrain, and therefore usually difficult for rookie drivers to adapt to. It will not have been the result Russell was hoping for, especially after making his championship ambitions abundantly clear.
Carlin, a team returning after a year out in 2017, had one of the best results of the race. Alongside Norris’ win, Sergio Sette Câmara brought home a second place finish for the British team, giving them an impressive one-two on their return to the sport. The Brazilian driver was initially overtaken by de Vries in the early stages of the race, but ultimately managed to gain second place back. Where he really proved his worth was in his end of race scrap with Markelov as he fought to defend his second place from the charging Russian. They fought until the very last lap, but clever and aggressive defending was enough to for Câmara to maintain his position.
Albon managed to recover after his poor start and intermittent DRS problems to a respectable fourth place, followed by Russell, and de Vries in sixth who could not find a way to manage his degrading tyres. Sean Gelael, a much criticised and controversial driver, proved his stock by making a very impressive recovery from only qualifying nineteenth to finish seventh. It was rookie Maximilian Günther who finished in eighth to claim reverse grid pole for Sunday’s sprint race, while Jack Aitken and Ralph Boschung took the last points paying positions.
In Sunday’s sprint race, there was yet more drama at the very beginning of the race. Gelael, with the potential for a solid result from his starting position of P2 stalled on the formation lap and was forced to start from the pit lane. There was just more trouble to come. Upon the race start three cars stalled again, failing to get off the grid entirely and they were pushed to the pit lane where they could join the race, albeit a way behind the pack. Two of the stallers were ART pair George Russell and Jack Aitken, with Haas junior driver Santino Ferrucci also failing to get away. Impressively, the other cars managed to avoid the stationary vehicles and everyone got away unscathed.
The best start in this race was bagged by Nyck de Vries who was starting from third. He overtook pole sitter Günther to claim the lead of the race, while the young German was also overtaken by Markelov who had a storming start from sixth on the grid, the Carlin pair following him to slot into fourth and fifth.
Everyone’s eyes were on tyre degradation throughout the 23 lap race. All drivers had started on the medium tyres, which in theory have long lasting wear. But ever year Formula 2 comes to Bahrain even the most experienced drivers find it difficult to make them last well. Many had speculated whether any of the drivers would attempt to do what Charles Leclerc did last year in the sprint race but taking an unprecedented pit stop and using his fresher tyres to fight back to claim victory. A pit stop is not mandatory in a sprint race, and at almost any circuit other than Bahrain it would not even be considered during a sprint race. But Leclerc had proven last year that it could have its advantages.
In the end it was Prema who attempted to repeat their exploits of the previous year when they pitted de Vries from the lead on lap nine. He had a sizeable lead of around three seconds, but it was very early in the race to expect him to make his new tyres last until the end. It could be argued that it was not a gamble for the win, but an attempt at damage control, as de Vries is not famed for strong tyre management.
His stop meant that Markelov inherited the lead of the race, Günther moved up into second and Câmara took third. Câmara was under pressure from his teammate Norris for some time, but an engine misfire midway through the race sent the Mclaren reserve driver tumbling back a handful of places, and most likely cost him a potential podium. The best the youngest driver on the grid could do was fourth place.
De Vries was rapid after his switch onto softer tyres, and for a while it looked as though he might be able to recover to the podium. But as the laps wore on, his tyres began to degrade again. He still managed to finish in fifth, which is arguably better than he would have done had he not pitted.
Ahead of him Markelov once again deployed his tyre management skills to hold a lead over Günther who was being put under pressure from the Carlin pair. The Arden driver was struggling to work out how to best manage his tyres, expected perhaps after he made the switch from Formula 3 where drivers are able to push their tyres a lot harder with a lot less degradation. But he showed great composure in holding off both Câmara and Norris, and by the end of the race he was even able to close the gap to Markelov in front.
Behind the Carlin pair and de Vries in fifth, Luca Ghiotto made a quiet recovery from twelfth to finish sixth, while Ralph Boschung rounded off a solid double points scoring weekend by finishing seventh. Rookie and Honda junior driver Nirei Fukuzumi claimed the last point in eighth place.
Norris leaves Bahrain as championship leader, and it was undoubtedly a dream start for the young Brit, as he certainly seemed to have the edge over many of the other rookies. At the moment it seems as though Markelov, who provided most of the thrills of the weekend, is his closest competitor. This should be expected from a driver entering his fifth season at this level, but that is not to take away from the skill and speed he displayed this weekend. Günther is perhaps a surprise as the second rookie in the standings at the moment, taking the points over higher rated drivers like Russell, Aitken and Haas junior driver Arjun Maini. But his rivals would do well to remember that he was more than capable of taking the fight to Norris on his day during Formula 3 last year.
Bahrain is a difficult track to open the season on, especially for those unused to the Pirelli tyres. And it is clear that teams are still trying to work out how to optimise the performance in these new cars, particularly in terms of start procedure. But after a calendar reshuffle this year, the next challenge Formula 2 faces are the streets of the Baku City Circuit, no mean feat given the utter madness it usually delivers.
The 2018 FIA Formula 2 season begins this weekend under much anticipation and featuring one of the most exiting grids in recent years. A few of the more experienced drivers remain, but with a host of highly rated rookies joining the field, it is expected to be a closely fought championship. This year will also see the introduction of the new Formula 2 car, complete with the halo cockpit protection device, which should shake up the playing field a little more. Teams who have been on top of set up in recent years might find themselves struggling to adjust.
Many are billing this season as the battle of the Brits, with 2017 Formula 3 champion Lando Norris and 2017 GP3 champion George Russell going head to head for the title. But in all likelihood, in a series as unpredictable as Formula 2, it won’t be as simple as just two drivers fighting it out. Although Norris and Russell will likely be at the sharp end of the field, this prediction overlooks a number of other highly capable drivers on the grid.
Though Formula 2 is a series which in the past was considered hard for rookies to adapt to, especially the high degradation Pirelli tyres that are run, Leclerc’s dominant rookie title win in 2017 has dispensed those expectations somewhat. And now any driver with the talent and the form is expected to deliver.
Norris and Russell are naturally two names that will come up when discussing potential title contenders, both coming off the back of convincing championship wins and both attached to Formula 1 teams (with Norris a McLaren junior driver and Russell part of the Mercedes Junior team). Driving for ART Grand Prix, Russell will benefit from staying with the team he clinched the GP3 title with, and the French outfit seem to be making a good start to the season already after completing the most laps in pre-season testing. Norris meanwhile will drive for Carlin, a new entry into Formula 2 for 2018, but a team with a rich history in motorsport and a reputation for bringing home trophies. Still, Carlin represents far more of an unknown quantity, and some consider Norris’ choice to join the team a bit of a gamble. Both drivers have made their intentions clear however, if their teams are capable of delivering them the title, then that is exactly what they will set out to do.
Fellow British rookie and ART teammate of Russell, Jack Aitken is another driver aiming for the top prize in 2018. Perhaps slightly overlooked after he lost the GP3 title to Russell in 2017, as Renault test and reserve driver Aitken also has the advantage of being affiliated with a Formula 1 team. As we saw in GP3, Aitken is more than capable of taking the fight to Russell, but his success will probably hang on how well he manages to adapt to the new series, an area in which he lagged behind his teammate last year.
It is unusual for such high expectations to be placed on a group of rookies, but that just goes to show how high the level of talent entering the series is. But Formula 2 is a championship that ordinarily favours experience. With this in mind last year’s runner-up Artem Markelov is a clear favourite. Staying with last year’s team champions Russian Time and entering his fifth year at this level, he has the experience and the credentials to win. And the twenty-three-year-old Russian needs to as well, although he has found himself a role within the Renault F1 team, he is reaching the upper limit of the acceptable number of years to spend in second-tier single seaters before he has to start looking at building his senior career.
Many have also placed their bets on Nyck de Vries as a likely title contender. The Dutch McLaren junior driver is entering his second season of Formula 2 with a move to the Italian team Prema who have been consistently fighting for wins and podiums since they entered GP2 in 2016. He will also have the extra motivation of getting to go up against his fellow McLaren junior driver Lando Norris, who has recently been putting him in the shade with his successful run of form. 2018 represents an opportunity for the two drivers to finally go head to head. He has thus far failed to deliver any big results since his Formula Renault 2.0 win in 2014 and hasn’t quite matched the potential he showed in his karting career. But backed by a strong team, 2018 could turn out to be his year.
These may be the likely title contenders, but it would not be surprising to see a few more unexpected names up the top of the leader board. Some of the other newcomers are capable of fighting for podiums, such as BWT Arden pair Maximilian Günther and Nirei Fukuzumi. Günther is following his 2017 title rival Lando Norris from Formula 3 where he finished third last year, and Fukuzumi is another GP3 graduate coming third last year behind his teammates; Russell and Aitken. A number of those staying on for a second or third year were race winners and podium finishers last year, drivers such as Ghiotto, Câmara, Fuoco, Latifi and Albon (the latter two unconfirmed as of yet, but widely speculated to be filling in the vacant DAMS seats) should be capable of repeating those exploits this year.
As ever, it will be hard to determine the standings until a few races have been run and the frontrunners emerge. But expect it to be a closely fought battle this year. Even in 2017, when Charles Leclerc seemingly dominated the competition we saw ten different race winners. If things are as close as they are predicted to be this year, then expect to see even more drivers standing atop the podium.
Bahrain will be a tricky first round too. Formula 2 doesn’t have the luxury of running of running in the evening as Formula 1 does, leaving the drivers to fight against the typical searing heat as well as each other. This usually leaves the rookies at a slight disadvantage, as it makes the already difficult to manage tyres even harder to get a handle on. There will also be further question marks to see how the new cars perform and how to teams and drivers adapt.
Trident Motorsport will field an all-Haas junior F2 lineup in 2018, with Arjun Maini graduating from GP3 to partner Santino Ferrucci.
Maini finished ninth in the standings in his first full GP3 campaign last year, taking his first series win at the sprint race in Spain and a further podium in Abu Dhabi. He was signed to the Haas F1 junior ranks as the team’s test and development driver in May 2017.
At F2’s post-season test in Abu Dhabi, Maini drove for both Trident and Russian Time.
“I’m very excited to be competing in the FIA Formula 2 championship,” Maini said. “I felt we were very competitive during the post-season test and given the series is using all-new cars for the coming season, I’m quite excited for the year ahead.
“Trident is a very strong team and I’m sure if we work hard we’ll be in for some strong results during the course of the season.”
Maini’s new teammate Ferrucci will be contesting his first full F2 season in 2018. The 19-year-old American joined Trident for the final five races of 2017 after a mid-season move up from GP3, and scored points at Hungary and Spa.
Trident team owner Maurizio Salvadori praised Ferrucci and Maini as “two undoubtably valuable prospects who have all that it takes to be among the future stars of motorsports for the years to come.
“It is certainly not by chance that [Haas F1] selected them to join their junior development programme.”
Renault has revealed its plans for the forthcoming Formula 1 season at a launch event focused on unveiling the team’s 2018 challenger.
The RS18—besides the mandatory addition of the Halo—features several small aerodynamic evolutions from its predecessor, including a slimmer nose section and much tighter packaging around the rear of the engine.
The team’s livery has also been tweaked for 2018, with Renault’s traditional yellow featuring more sparingly along the leading edges of the car.
Speaking about Renault’s 2018 goals, technical chief Bob Bell highlighted improved reliability as one of the marque’s key targets:
“We need a strong reliability record,” Bell said. “That’s something we need to focus on. We need the car as reliable as we can make it.
“To improve reliability, we have to accept nothing less than perfection. Anything that ends up on the car needs to be designed and built to the highest standard; checked and rechecked as fit for purpose.
“All the issues that blighted us last year need to be eradicated by a fresh approach. That’s a huge challenge…and it’s the toughest task we face.”
Renault engine chief Remi Taffin echoed Bell, stating that having a reliable car will be the team’s “first priority”, especially with teams limited to just three power units per car in 2018.
As well as revealing its new car, Renault also announced as part of its season launch an updated Renault Sport Academy driver lineup.
With the team’s previous third driver Sergey Sirotkin moving on to a race seat at Williams, Renault has promoted British-Korean junior Jack Aitken to the vacant reserve driver role. The 22-year-old, who has been part of the RSA since 2016, will combine his expanded Renault role this year with a maiden F2 campaign with ART GP.
Aitken will be joined in Renault’s F1 stable by fellow F2 driver Artem Markelov. The 23-year-old Russian, who finished runner-up to Charles Leclerc in last year’s F2 championship, has been named Renault’s 2018 test and development driver.
Force India has signed Canadian F2 racer Nicholas Latifi as its new test and reserve driver for the 2018 F1 season.
Latifi’s role will comprise simulator work as well as participation in young driver tests and “a number of Friday practice sessions” throughout the year.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Latifi said in a statement. “Sahara Force India is a team that has shown constant improvement for the last few years and I’m proud to become a part of one of the success stories of Formula One.
“I am eager to show the team what I can do and help them as they continue to close the gap to the front of the grid.”
Force India team boss Vijay Mallya said of the appointment, “Nicholas joins us off the back of a strong season in F2 and strengthens our driver development programme. He will support our simulator programme and work with the team during a number of Friday practice sessions.”
Mallya added: “We have a long track record of bringing on young talented drivers and Nicholas will learn a huge amount as he gets embedded in the team, and looks forward to a career in Formula One.”
Latifi, who previously held a test driver role at Renault, took one race win and nine podiums to finish fifth in the 2017 F2 Championship.
He began in karting, the usual route for racing drivers, before moving to the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2007. The following season he took 10 wins and 5 podiums to claim the Ginetta Junior title.
It was in 2009 that he moved to Formula Renault BARC and finished third with 2 wins. The following season he competed in two Formula Renault BARC races and also in the Italian Formula 3 Championship but it was in 2011 that he returned full time to Formula Renault and took the championship title with four wins on the way. That very same season he was a finalist in the 2011 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award.
He moved to the FIA Formula 2 Championship in 2012 and the following season signed for Marussia Manor Racing to compete in GP3 as part of their Young Driver Programme.
He made the switch to sportscar racing in 2015 and began competing in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, he finished 6th in the championship in his first season and in 2016 and this season finished runner-up to Dan Cammish and Charlie Eastwood respectively.
His dream is to race Le Mans, these are his Quick 10 and he is…..Dino Zamparelli.
What is your favourite racing circuit?
My favourite circuit has to now be Le Mans. I’m not sure it’s the traditional answer as it’s very much a one-off race circuit. But I raced there this year at the Le Mans support race in Porsche Carrera Cup and it blew me away. It was just amazing and very enjoyable. Over 4 minutes long and the corners were incredible. Other than that, under the normal circuits, Spa and Silverstone are my two favorites. Both for having so much history and some epic corners.
Who was your racing idol?
I suppose I used to love watching Michael Schumacher growing up. I loved his desire to win at all costs.
Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?
Well recently, over the last 3 seasons of Porsche racing, I’ve enjoyed a tough battle against Dan Cammish. Him and his team Redline have been a super consistent and fast package. We ran him close to the title for half a season in 2016, and had some great duels. I wasn’t happy with the performance of my team mid-year onwards, so changed to JTR for 2017 – we had a strong year and had some great battles against Dan and eventual champion Eastwood. Eastwood won it by taking one more win than I did but we scored exactly the same points. It was another good season in Porsche with a new team, and I thoroughly enjoyed racing against Cammish again in 2017.
Considering racers of all time, you are a team principal and money is no object. Which two racers would you have in your team?
I used to really enjoy watching Juan Pablo Montoya in his prime, when he first burst onto the F1 scene with Williams. He was fast and feisty. So I would probably have him as my driver. I’m also a huge fan and always have been of Fernando Alonso. Both drivers would be capable of winning the championship on pure speed and talent. And both drivers would provide an awful lot of entertainment over the radio comms I’m sure!
If you could invite four famous people to dinner (past and present), who would you invite?
I’d invite my favourite comedian to make me laugh, Ricky Gervais. I’d invite James Hunt, to sit and listen to his countless stories from the 70s. I can’t think of another two, so I’d get Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg along and subtly have every collision they ever had on TV in the background and sit them next to each other. Give them both a beer and see what happened over the night.
Your personal racing number? What was it and the reason behind it?
It’s number 8 because I like it and believe it’ll bring me luck, like the Chinese.
What is the best race you have been involved in?
I would say one of the best races recently was this year at Le Mans for the Porsche Carrera Cup support race. Four of us could have won the race going into the last lap. I climbed back up from 4th to finish 2nd in the end, and we were all nose to tail. I was gutted not to win it overall, out of 60 cars at the famous circuit, but it was an epic battle. It got put up on Facebook later on and received well over 1.5 million views!
Is there a race or series you have not competed in that you would like to or had wanted to?
I always admired the intensity and race craft of Formula Ford. The overtaking in that series was seemingly every lap/every corner. It always looked like a lot of fun. I’d quite liked to have also given GP2 a proper crack. I tested a GP2 car in Abu Dhabi and it was amazing, so I can only imagine racing them would have been a huge experience. F1 as well was the dream when I was younger. Although for pure racing, it would be more GP2/Formula Ford.
How did you get interested in motor racing? What ignited that spark?
It was a local karting track in France where I lived at the time. I went round a few times and got the bug. I never looked back ever since. My wallet certainly has, a number of times.
What is the best advice in racing you have been given?
The best advice I’ve been given is that ‘Motor Racing is primarily a business’. In other words, someone somewhere has to pay for it, be it sponsors, family or manufacturers. This bit of advice helped me to carve out my Porsche sponsorship programmes and continue to race in sports cars, and hopefully allow me to race for many years to come. It’s the advice I say to every young driver who asks me. If you’re quick, then 99% of the time it isn’t enough, you have to offer more than that.
I have to agree with Dino regarding the Porsche race at Le Mans, I was on the edge of my seat during that race. Epic battle!
I would like to thank Dino for taking the time to answer the Quick 10 and wish him the very best for 2018 and hopefully one day, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
(c) All photos courtesy of Dino Zamparelli and for more photos visit his Facebook page here