The 21-year-old’s first full season in GP2 got off to a near-perfect start at Barcelona in May when he finished second in the opening race, before then going on to record a further six top-ten finishes in the ultra-competitive 11-round series.
With a second season in GP2 confirmed for 2017, Nicholas is determined to end his current campaign brightly as he knows a positive result in Abu Dhabi will set the right tone for next year.
“You never want to end the last race of the year on a negative so I’m hoping for some positive results this weekend to reward the mechanics and engineers at my DAMS team, as well as the other members of my team that are working in the background and, of course, my family,” Nicholas said.
“A positive finish is also something I can carry into post-season testing – it’s very important when you’re trying to establish some momentum and build on your first full season in a racing category.”
The Renault Sport F1 Team test driver’s hopes for the weekend are boosted by the fact that he dominated the last GP2 test that was held at Yas Marina in December 2015.
After three days of running, Nicholas proved to be the fastest driver on the 5.55km track and he admits Yas Marina is a venue where he feels comfortable.
“It’s definitely a track where I know how to drive fast and I’m very comfortable with the configuration and how to approach certain corners,” he said. “Yas Marina is a track where a lot of the post-season testing happens so I have plenty of experience that I will be looking to call on this weekend.
“My DAMS team has always been pretty competitive there in the past; they were fast there in testing and had the pole there last year, as well. That’s nice to know and it’s certainly a positive to take into qualifying.”
Nicholas, who is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2016, is also relishing the prospect of racing at night in Abu Dhabi – something that the GP2 field will do on Saturday as the 31-lap Feature Race gets underway at 18.40 local time.
He said: “There’s no other event like this because you qualify and race in the dark – it’s quite a unique experience and brings a whole different atmosphere under the lights and darting between and underneath the brightly-lit hotels and buildings. It’s pretty cool and one of the best events of the year from that perspective.”
And with temperatures set to be markedly lower on Saturday night than they will be for Sunday morning’s 22-lap Sprint Race, Nicholas is particularly looking forward to the first race when tyre wear won’t be as big an issue as it has been at other tracks during the season.
“The night running changes the characteristics of the race and with the track temperature being much cooler on Saturday we’ll be at the lower end of the tyre deg (degradation) scale which is something I’m happy about.
“Managing the tyres has been a challenge at some tracks this year, but I’ve been making steps to improve my understanding and of that and I think the race one conditions should help me a bit more with that this weekend,” he concluded.