Back in 2017, Nyck de Vries and Nicholas Latifi were embarking on the inaugural FIA Formula 2 campaign as two of the most highly rated young drivers in junior formula. Raw, but with eye-catching potential, they have raced against, matched, and at times beat, successful F2 graduates Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon.

Naturally, De Vries and Latifi’s ultimate goal is to join them in F1. The 2019 campaign has seen them battling it out at the top of the Championship thanks to their mature and clinical driving, combined with an impressive consistency, all of which is key to claiming the crown.

Taking part in the maiden F2 campaign, the pair have followed varying paths. Latifi, from Montreal in Canada, started karting as late as 14-years-old, but rapidly made his way up the junior ladder. The now 24-year-old has stuck with DAMS for each of his three F2 seasons - earning 5th and 9th place finishes.

De Vries, on the other hand, has raced for four different teams in the Championship. Beginning 2017 with Rapax, he made a mid-season switch to Racing Engineering, where he would finish 7th in his debut campaign. In 2018, he opted for a drive with PERTAMINA PREMA Theodore Racing, before settling with the more familiar ART Grand Prix this year – the team with whom he raced for in GP3 in 2016.

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4th place in 2018 showed continued growth for the Dutchman - who hails from the small village of Sneek in Holland – but it is this season that has proven his most fruitful and the answers as to why, perhaps lie within some of the stats from 2018. Winning a Championship requires relentless consistency and four retirements from the first 11 races last year severely hurt his chances. Come the season’s end, four top 5 finishes in the final four races suggested he was ready to mount a serious challenge, and he followed this up by dominating the 2019 pre-season.

However, testing is famously unreliable when it comes to predicting how the following campaign will pan out and it was instead Latifi who started the season in searing form. The Canadian was arguably less fancied than his Dutch counterpart going into 2019 - he had failed to follow up his second F2 season with as much ferocity as his first and finished 9th. Although, this was in part due to illness which impaired his pre-season and start to the 2018 campaign. There were flickers of that obvious talent once he got back to speed, namely, an imperious drive in the Belgian Sprint Race, where he led from lights-to-flag. A Reserve Driver role for the Williams F1 team also exhibits his potential. At the start of 2019, the Canadian accrued 35 points in Round 1 – 23 more than the Dutchman –with a win and two podiums.

Having beaten De Vries for points in each of the opening three rounds, Latifi became the title favourite, but then, the tables appeared to be turning in Monaco. Confidence was flowing through him in the principality and he topped Free Practice, but De Vries took control in Qualifying and nailed the perfect lap of the iconic and unrelenting Monte Carlo streets. The Dutchman went on to win the Feature Race, while Latifi failed to finish within the points, later admitting: “In Monaco, it was my own mistakes which kind of took me out of contention.”

By the final lap of the Sprint Race, De Vries had taken the Championship lead, but Latifi produced what could still prove to be a pivotal moment. Out of the points, but eligible for fastest lap, the 24-year-old switched to qualifying mode and flew around to claim the extra points, earning himself enough to return to the summit of the Championship.

In Le Castellet, the pendulum did swing. A Feature Race win took De Vries ahead of Latifi in the standings, during a period ruled by misfortune and frustration for the Williams’ Reserve driver, who struggled again in Spielberg.

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After a troublesome three rounds, the Canadian was closer to his best in Silverstone, collecting just two points fewer than his title rival and setting himself up for what could be a key race in Budapest ahead of the summer break. Latifi didn’t disappoint either, qualifying third behind De Vries and Luca Ghiotto - setting up a straight scrap off the line. With the Dutchman’s concentration snatched by the Italian when the lights went out, Latifi emerged ahead of the three triumphantly and duly secured his first win since Barcelona.

The win in Hungary will undoubtedly have handed the Canadian the confidence he needs to send the title fight down to the wire, with a mere 30 points now separating the duo at the top. For now, De Vries’ consistency across the season has him ahead, with eight podiums from the last seven rounds - a phenomenal statistic.

The Dutchman has asserted that his approach won’t change in the final four rounds, saying: “we want to win races and we are here to win.” Meanwhile, Latifi has stressed that he will be using the “last four rounds to chip away at the gap to Nyck.”

It should prove to be an enthralling end to the season as the two go head-to-head, while fellow contenders Ghiotto, Sérgio Sette Câmara and Jack Aitken still can’t be discounted from a late charge themselves.

With four unpredictable rounds to go, the curtain closer in Abu Dhabi beckons.