The 21-year-old Canadian came close to taking the first F2 win of his career at Barcelona earlier this month, but the likelihood of a repeat performance on the streets of the Principality went up in smoke on lap seven of Friday’s 41-lap Feature Race, when his car coasted to a halt in Monaco’s famous tunnel with a burned-out battery.
Starting Saturday’s Sprint Race from the back of the grid, Nicholas bided his time, saving his tyres for an impressive attack in the second half that enabled him to gain seven places on his start position by the chequered flag.
“Overall, you’d have to say it’s been a disappointing weekend. In this championship it’s important to score good points consistently. I feel I could have done that here if luck had been on my side,” Nicholas said.
Starting the Feature Race from P9, Nicholas’s pre-race strategy was working perfectly until trouble struck.
“My qualifying laps had felt good, but the times weren’t, and P9 is not where you want to be starting a race like Monaco. So we adopted a risky strategy and switched to the option tyre on the grid – something that would benefit us if there was an early safety car,” explained Nicholas, who is supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.
“The main goal was to finish the race, which I hadn’t managed in Monaco to that point, and move up at least one position to benefit from the reverse grid on Saturday. Unfortunately, the battery ended up exploding. I felt the issue two laps before, with a loss of power on throttle in some corners. I knew this wasn’t going to end well.
“It’s just one of those things. The team has never experienced it before, it’s nothing we could have foreseen. At the time I stopped I was in front of [Luca] Ghiotto and he went on to finish P5, and I think that was a realistic finishing position for us.”
Monaco’s notoriously twisty and narrow 3.3km circuit wasn’t going to be the easiest place to stage a fightback in the 30-lap Sprint Race that was held today.
The DAMS Racing driver said: “It is the worst track to have a DNF in race one and then start race two from the back. It’s very difficult to overtake, and every time you try it is risky, and I still wanted to get that full race distance under my belt.
“For the first half of the race everyone’s tyres were good and it was next to impossible to overtake, so I sat back and saved my tyres. In the second half, I was quicker than everybody and I made quite a few attacking overtakes.
“They felt pretty exciting and I really enjoyed it – it was good fun. In the end of course, it was all for nothing – at least in terms of points – but the experience was valuable, and I now have a full race distance to look back on and analyse. I want to bounce back strongly at the next round in Baku.”