Nicholas scored his sixth podium of the year at the last round in Hungary, then drove Renault’s R.S.17 Formula 1 car at the championship’s mid-season test before returning to his home town Toronto.
“It’s one of the few opportunities in the season when I get to be home for a decent length of time,” Nicholas said. “It was great to catch up with family and friends, but at the same time I couldn’t wait get back to F2. It’s no real substitute, but I managed a few days in a shifter kart to keep sharp.”
“I got back to DAMS early this week for some proper race preparation, and a bit more simulator time than normal because it’s been a longer break out of the car. I feel relaxed, confident and itching to get going again.”
Featuring iconic sectors like Eau Rouge and Pouhon, Spa is one of Nicholas’s favourite tracks and one that last year marked an important stage in his development as a race-winning driver in F2.
“Of course it’s beneficial to return to a track where I’ve driven the F2 car before, but Spa will be an interesting one,” the 22-year old explained. “I had two average races there last year. They weren’t terrible, they weren’t great, but in terms of my understanding in the car that weekend was a turning point. After a difficult point in the season, things started to come together.
“Reaching that same race again this year, knowing the jump that me and the team have made in the first half of the season, brings a lot of confidence.”
In particular, Nicholas expects his work in the area of tyre management to prove beneficial. “In Spa we will have the new medium-compound tyre as the prime, instead of the hard, so there should be more degradation – and that’s something I’m all for,” he explained.
“Tyre management is part of my strong suit this year, so for me the more degradation the better. I think the new tyre will spice things up a bit. It will be interesting to see how they will affect the races.”
After a maiden F2 victory, five additional podiums and a fastest lap last time out at the Hungaroring, Nicholas has set the bar high again when it comes to expectations this weekend.
“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be consistently challenging for feature race wins now. I’ve shown several times this year than I’m able to fight for victory when I’ve done well in qualifying – and so putting a good practice and qualifying session together on Friday is the target,” he said.
“Beyond that, I want to take good points from both races. With eight races to go, I’m P4 in the championship and close to third. The plan is to try and chip away at the guys ahead and do my best to outscore them over the weekend.”
Nicholas’s bid for FIA Formula 2 Championship success is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina in 2017.