The 22-year-old took his DAMS Racing-prepared car to an 11th-placed finish in Saturday’s Feature Race at the hot and dusty Sakhir International Circuit, followed by 10th in the Sprint Race on Sunday.
Although the results were not what Nicholas had hoped for, he achieved one of his aims for the weekend, which was to gain more experience of the all-new technical package.
“I’m disappointed because I was hoping for a much stronger weekend, especially after my pace was quite strong during race simulations in pre-season testing,” said Nicholas. “However, there were positives to take from the Sprint Race at least.”
The DAMS Racing driver headed to the challenging desert circuit with the intention of maximising his time in the car as he continued to fight back from a pre-season that was disrupted by illness.
Nicholas qualified 15th on the grid for the Feature Race after he was baulked by slower cars on what would have been a faster lap.
“Nevertheless I was still looking forward to the race because I’d set competitive times during race simulation runs at this circuit in pre-season testing. However, the race wasn’t at all what I expected. I made a change to the set-up shortly before the start of the race and it didn’t have the desired effect on the chassis balance – quite the opposite in fact. I’ll chalk that down to still learning about this new Formula 2 car.”
Sunday’s Sprint Race didn’t get off to the best of starts when, struggling with an inconsistent clutch, Nicholas stalled the engine as he set off on his grid formation lap. It meant he had to start the race from the pitlane, right at the back of the pack.
However, he displayed encouraging race pace and carefully managed his Pirelli tyres to battle up to tenth position by the time the chequered flag flew after 23 laps.
“Although I still experienced some issues with the balance of the car, it was a much better event overall,” said Nicholas. “I was much happier with the way I managed the race and I was happy that I ran all of the laps of both races.
“Going into the weekend that was a goal of mine, especially at a track like this where you really learn a lot about the tyre degradation, which I feel I did. Now we just have to apply that knowledge for the rest of the season.”
The next FIA F2 Championship event takes place on 27-29 April at the Baku circuit in Azerbaijan. Nicholas went well there last year, and feels he’s taken a positive step in terms of learning about the new-for-2018 car.
“Perfecting the balance of the car is something myself and the team need to continue to work on. It’s a long championship and next up is a track where I took a double podium last year, so I’m optimistic.”
Nicholas’s 2018 F2 campaign is proudly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Lavazza and Sofina.