The proud Canadian rates the home of the British Grand Prix as his favourite track on the GP2 calendar and, after putting a frustrating practice session firmly behind him, the 21-year-old showed his talent during Friday qualifying for the fifth round of the GP2 Series.
A storming lap close to the end of the session not only secured P3 on the grid for Saturday afternoon’s Feature Race, but also confirmed Nicholas’s best-ever qualifying performance in his short GP2 career.
When the opening 60-minute race got underway on Saturday, Nicholas settled into P3 and looked comfortable as he carefully tracked the leaders ahead. However, the complexion of the race changed dramatically when the Renault Sport F1 Team Test Driver completed his mandatory pit stop with 10 laps remaining.
The switch to the Pirelli option tyre significantly affected the performance of Nicholas’s car. He rejoined the action in P13 and was only able to gain a couple of places as the race drew to its conclusion.
“In hindsight, I think we chose the wrong strategy. But it’s easy to say that afterwards,” said Nicholas, a podium finisher at the opening race of the season in Barcelona. “The first part of race was good but I was really struggling with the tyres after about 10 laps and completely lost the tyres at the end of the stint. Keeping pace was even more of a problem on the soft tyre afterwards.”
Sunday morning’s Sprint Race proved to be another challenging encounter for Nicholas who is proudly supported by Lavazza, Royal Bank of Canada and Sofina during his first full season of GP2 competition.
Starting from P11, he moved up to P10 in the early exchanges, before a dramatic loss of tyre performance at mid-distance meant Nicholas slipped back to P15. But even more drama was to follow.
As the rain began to fall with three laps remaining, Nicholas, who had worked hard to bring his tyres back to life at three-quarter distance, saw his opportunity and launched a magnificent fightback in the unpredictable conditions.
While those ahead of him struggled for pace on their slick tyres, Nicholas drove confidently and snatched an astounding five places on the last couple of laps. That elevated him to P10 in the final classification.
“The races didn’t quite deliver what I’d hoped for after such a good qualifying but that’s because I haven’t raced at Silverstone before with this car and these tyres. That’s quite a disadvantage,” Nicholas explained.
“There are things I would have done differently had I known certain things would have reacted in certain ways with the tyres. That’s one of the negatives with this being my first full season in GP2. There is so much to learn and experience is so important.
“But this season is a learning process for me and, having completed both of the races at Silverstone and done all the laps, I’ve definitely picked up on a lot of things that I can take forward into this season and use to even greater effect in 2017.”