The Canadian was optimistic that experience gained at the Hungaroring on his GP2 debut in 2015 would play into his hands this weekend. However, the track surface, which was recently resurfaced, did not behave as was expected and made overtaking even more difficult than normal at the notoriously tight circuit.
“I raced in Hungary last year, so that would usually be a benefit and the team was also fast here too,” Nicholas said. “But with the new surface this year, it was completely different. The tyre degradation is usually very high – but this time there was almost none.
“I was preparing for the degradation to come, driving quite conservatively in the opening stages, but people ended up getting faster towards the end. It was quite strange, the polar opposite to what happened here last year.
“It made the races more processional because nobody dropped off. You’re just following the car in front and there was little you could do unless somebody made a mistake.”
The 21-year-old took P16 in Saturday’s Feature Race and avoided opening-lap drama to make up places in Sunday’s Sprint battle, coming home in P12. But Nicholas did rue an opportunity missed in qualifying.
“Qualifying made the races more difficult than they should have been,” he explained. “We’d only put fuel in the car for one timed run and I made the same mistake that my team-mate did on that lap.
“I was up on my fastest time and it was looking like it would have been good enough for top four, maybe even top three. Sometimes that happens. The way we did it, fuelling for one lap, is a risk but it almost paid off.
“It meant we started much further back on a track where it’s difficult to overtake and follow. The more qualifying sessions I take part in, the more confident I’ll become in extracting everything from the tyres. It’s something you can’t replicate in practice.”
Round seven from the Hockenheimring, Germany comes in just a week’s time (30-31 July) and will provide an opportunity for Nicholas – proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina during his first full season of GP2 racing in 2016 – to bounce straight back.
“The positive ahead of Germany is that it comes so quickly. We’ll analyse why the pace was missing in the car but then the focus switches to Hockenheim,” Nicholas said.
“It’s a circuit I know well from F3 and one the team has been competitive on. Hopefully, all being equal, it’ll be an advantage to us.
“My goal is the same as it has been at every round this season – to finish both races well and accumulate as much experience as possible.”