The 20-year-old arrived at the famous street circuit after scoring impressive P2 and P7 finishes at round one in Barcelona (13-15 May) and was hoping to build on his fourth place in the GP2 Drivers’ standings by securing some more championship points this weekend.
Things started well for the DAMS driver as he secured P9 during Thursday’s qualifying session. However, contact with the barrier inside the Monaco tunnel prevented him from finishing Friday’s opening 60-minute race and his frustration was compounded on Saturday when a gear selector issue meant he was forced to retire from race two.
“It’s been a disappointing weekend,” Nicholas said. “There are positives to take from practice and qualifying when I picked my mark, gained the confidence and knew there was much more left. But things didn’t quite go to plan during the races and that’s a frustration.”
Nicholas put his retirement in race one down to a mistake he made as he defended his P8 position from Artem Markelov on lap 23.
“My goal was to finish at least one place ahead so I could benefit from the reverse grid in race two, but I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with the set-up I had chosen,” he said.
“I was pushing hard when I made a mistake coming into the turn before the tunnel and Markelov was able to get on the inside of me. I was a little ahead so I thought okay, I’m going to have the inside line for the chicane, but off-line in the tunnel the surface is really dusty and as soon as I hit that I couldn’t turn the car anymore.”
And Nicholas’s luck didn’t get any better as he started from the back of the grid during Saturday’s second GP2 race.
“Stuck behind the slower traffic my objective was to finish the race, bring the car back in one piece and try and take as much experience as possible for next year. I didn’t want to take any risks,” he explained.
“But soon after the VSC, I started to feel some strange things under braking. The gearbox wasn’t downshifting when I wanted it to and then, half a lap later, it started to stick in gear. I knew it was all over when I was stuck in third for the whole straight.”
Despite missing out on championship points this weekend, the highs of the season opener ensure Nicholas holds eighth in the Drivers’ standings heading to Baku, Azerbaijan (17-19 June).
“For me this season is all about learning and building experience, and as part of that you have to accept that mistakes will happen – from me, the team and the car,” Nicholas added. “Of course it’s disappointing, but I’ll be able to put everything I have learned this weekend to good use when I return to Monaco in 2017.”