The 20-year-old, who set the ultimate pace during three days of testing in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2015, has just wrapped up his European testing schedule after driving at Barcelona and Jerez in Spain. Each test lasted for three days.
Nicholas and his French team used their track time in Spain to continue their preparations for the opening GP2 race weekend in Barcelona on 13-15 May.
“The main goal was to learn as much as possible and to get comfortable ahead of the race weekends. This is my first season in GP2 so there are lots of things that I need to get used to, both in and out of the car,” Nicholas explains.
“The pleasing thing is that we’ve got through six days of testing with no issues. There haven’t been any technical problems or any mistakes from me. That allowed us to get through our programme as planned and that feels great.”
Nicholas and his championship-winning DAMS team worked on lots of different strategies and scenarios during testing to make sure they are ready for every challenge they will face during the 22-race GP2 season. Although they had one eye on the timing screens, the priority was making sure they progressed on all fronts.
“We worked on lots of different things during testing; long runs, qualifying simulations, race runs and pit stop strategies,” Nicholas says. “We weren’t necessarily going for performance with every lap that we turned. Pre-season testing isn’t about that. For me, it’s been about learning and making sure I can arrive at the first race in good shape.
“I’ve now done three separate tests with DAMS and everything’s been extremely positive and enjoyable. They’re a great bunch of guys and they really push the driver hard. That’s good for me because the 2016 season is all about making the most of every learning opportunity that comes my way.”
Nicholas now has to wait six weeks until the first GP2 race weekend of the season and he admits that’s a frustrating prospect after spending so much time in his Lavazza-sponsored car in recent weeks.
“It’s pretty frustrating that there’s such a gap before Barcelona because I’m keen to get going after the tests,” he says. “But that’s the way the calendar is shaped and I’ve made sure I’m going to be very busy during the next few weeks to stay in the zone. I’m going to be doing some karting, some work in the simulator and lots of physical training.”
The tests in Barcelona and Jerez allowed Nicholas to get a glimpse of the opposition he’ll face in 2016 and the Renault Sport Formula One Team Test Driver believes he’s going to continue his development in an extremely competitive environment this season.
“Testing has shown me that the 2016 GP2 Series is going to be one of the most competitive ever,” he says. “If you look up and down the pit lane, there is at least one driver in every garage that’s capable of finishing a race at the front. There’s some very fast drivers but I’m ready for the competition and the challenge that lies ahead.”