Nicholas, who has one podium finish to his name so far in 2016, used the summer break to enjoy some time relaxing with his family at home in Toronto and to thoroughly analyse his performance during a sequence of two back-to-back race weekends in Austria, the UK, Hungary and Germany.
But with the mid-season break now over, Nicholas is fully focused on this weekend’s battle at Spa where he ultimately hopes to convert the strong potential he has shown in qualifying during 2016 into a pair of point-scoring race results.
“The objective at Spa is to continue the strong form we’ve been having in qualifying, but to then use that to make a big step up in our race performance,” Nicholas said. “For sure, the goal is always to get into the GP2 points. But first we have to make sure we have the pace at the start of the weekend and the performance will come from that.
“Some of our most recent races have been pretty tough and myself and the team want to change that. If the right performance is there as a team, in me as the driver and we feel like we’ve made a step forward, I’ll be happy with that.”
Nicholas, who is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2016, suffered at the hands of significant tyre degradation during the last GP2 encounter at Hockenheim and he’s been working closely with his DAMS Racing team during the summer break to understand how he can manage his car’s Pirelli rubber more effectively during the eight GP2 races that remain this season.
“The team and I have been able to analyse everything in more detail and reflect on Hockenheim,” he said. “I now feel I have a better understanding of the problems we encountered in Germany and it’s good to know that Spa won’t give us such high degradation. This is my first full season in GP2 and getting experience of how to manage the tyres effectively was always going to be my biggest challenge this year.
“But it takes time and you can’t just say ‘if I do this and this everything will be fine’. Understanding the tyres is something I have to make small improvements with and that’s a process I hope to continue with at Spa.”
Nicholas’s chance of making the step in performance he’s targeted should be helped by the fact he’s racing on a track he enjoys and, crucially, has recorded success at in the recent past.
The 21-year-old said: “I’m definitely looking forward to going back to Spa because it’s one of my favourite tracks and a place where I’ve had some good results in the past. I scored my first pole position at Spa in British F3 and I qualified on the front row at Spa in Formula Renault 3.5 last season.
“Being able to take corners like Eau Rouge flat out is one of the attractions of Spa but for me the track has lots of other qualities. The nature of the circuit is high speed and it has a great flow to it. The way the corners link together is fantastic and that makes it a fun place to race a GP2 car.”