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Latifi still fighting for F1 chance in 2018

Nicholas Latifi, Renault
© XPB 

Formula 2 driver Nicholas Latifi still hopes he can do well enough in this year's competition to keep him in the running for a Formula 1 race seat at Renault in 2018.

Latifi took part in testing at the Hungaroring at the beginning of the month. He drove the R.S.17 on the first day of the in-season test. However his efforts were overshadowed by the presence of Robert Kubica in the car the following day.

Fitness permitting, Kubica appears to have the momentum to take over Jolyon Palmer's race seat in 2018. But Latifi certainly isn't giving up on this dream just yet.

"Honestly, I'm not thinking about what's going to happen next year yet," the 22-year-old Canadian told GPUpdate.net. "We still have eight races left in F2.

"How I finish in that, and my results, will be the best factor in determining whether or not I graduate to a race seat [in F1].

"For what happens next year, I can't really predict that just yet."

Latifi's top time in Hungary was 1:20.302s on Tuesday. That compared to Kubica's eye-catching best effort of 1:18.572s on Wednesday. Both drivers had carried out private testing in older-spec cars prior to the official in-season test,

However their efforts weren't really directly comparable. Latifi's planned performance run had to be cancelled due to technical issues. He completed just 54 laps during his day in the car, compared to Kubica's 142.

"The guys did a great job in the garage with the engine change so I could get back out at the end of the day," he said.

"Obviously it was a shame to miss out on some of the planned mileage. Especially some low fuel runs on the ultrasoft tyres.

"Not being able to do the performance running [made it] a bit, let's say, difficult to show that side of things - the raw speed, and the pace," Latifi admitted. "I didn't have the opportunity to do that.

"But being a Formula 1 driver is not only about putting in one quick lap," he pointed out. "[It's] also the feedback, being able to get through a programme.

"I'm quite happy we did the main priority stuff," he added.

Latifi is currently in fourth place in the Formula 2 driver standings. That puts him two places (and 43 points) behind his other big rival for the Renault F1 seat in 2018, Oliver Rowland.

Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz has also been linked to a possible Renault switch in 2018. However, Red Bull management has consistently ruled that option out.

Renault's reserve driver Sergei Sirotkin is another driver on the shortlist. And team boss Cyril Abiteboul hasn't ruled out Palmer staying for another season, either.

"If he manages to turn around the situation, which he did last year, we are completely open to a future between the team and Jo for one more season.

"Stability would be good for the team," Abiteboul added. "Things could go his way, but at the end of the day that's in his hands."

It all leaves Latifi with a lot on his mind and even more to prove during the remainder of the 2017 season.

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