The Canadian, who is tackling his first full season in GP2, completed the seventh round of the GP2 Series at Hockenheim in Germany earlier today and now has three weeks away from the paddock to prepare for round eight at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium (26-28 August).
“I’m going to use the next few weeks to look at everything that’s gone on in the first half of the season so I can hopefully come back even more competitive at Spa,” the 21-year-old said. “It’s been a busy season so far and I’ve had to learn a lot in quite a short space of time.
“I want to continue improving so I’m grateful I have a bit of time to take stock away from the race track and re-focus on the things I’ve done well and where I need to improve.”
This weekend’s races in Germany proved to be another learning curve for Nicholas as he sought to understand how Pirelli’s GP2 tyres would perform at Hockenheim – a track he had never driven in GP2 machinery before Friday’s free practice and qualifying sessions.
A positive performance in qualifying got the weekend off to a strong start as Nicholas guided his DAMS Racing car to P7 on the time sheets.
“I was pretty confident for quali because the car is always good and competitive in that session,” Nicholas explained. “I showed straight away what I was able to do on my first set of tyres and everything felt good. I was a bit unfortunate on my second set as my track position wasn’t great and I hit a fair bit of traffic. But P7 was a positive first step towards having a good weekend.”
Nicholas, who is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2016, started Saturday’s Feature Race fantastically and quickly fought his way up to P3 as the opening laps of the race unfolded. But he wasn’t able to maintain that pace as the performance of his prime tyres suffered on the Hockenheim asphalt.
By the time the race strategy allowed Nicholas to pit for new soft rubber, the deficit to the point-scoring positions ahead was too much to claw back and he had to settle for P14 at the chequered flag.
“Things started really quite good. I was on the attack and wanted to be a bit more aggressive at the beginning to try and decide my own fate,” the Renault Sport F1 Team test driver said. “I got some clean air and was settling into P3. But, in hindsight, I pushed too hard in those opening laps and the tyre degradation was absolutely terrible.
“It was frustrating because we were running at the front and had the race slip away from us like that. But this is the track where we’ll see the highest tyre degradation this season and I learned a lot in that situation.”
Starting from P14 on the grid for Sunday’s Sprint Race, Nicholas was bumped – literally – down the order as the field charged through the first two corners. He therefore opted to concentrate on managing his tyres and eventually came home in P17 after 27 laps of racing.
“The positive in the second race was the fact that I kept my tyres to the end,” Nicholas said. “In the first race I did 20 laps and was screaming for a pit stop. But in race two I did 27 laps and the pace was quite competitive in the end.
“For sure, this was another weekend where I learned a lot about tyre degradation and I’m determined to take the positives from the negative situations when they arise. That’s how I’ll improve as a driver and how I’ll build on my strong qualifying in future races.”