ALBERT PARK GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT | 2023 FIA FORMULA 2 ROUND THREE
Melbourne, Australia, 02 April 2023 – Clément Novalak Showcases Strong Racecraft in Melbourne
FIA Formula 2 headed to the Southern Hemisphere this weekend, seeing Melbourne, Australia host the championship for the first time since the series’ inception – providing even footing for the entire grid as no team has had experience at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit. After spending extended hours in the simulator preparing for this event, Clément Novalak arrived to the Land Down Under looking to collect the first points of his 2023 Sophomore F2 campaign. Famously known for its “4 seasons in a day”, the Frenchman would experience varying Melbourne temperatures and weather conditions throughout the weekend, providing an additional challenge to fine-tune his #21 Trident Motorsport car.
The sun would grace the circuit for Friday morning’s free practice session, bringing warm weather and hot track temperatures. Clément would attack Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit straight out of the box, searching for the limits of his car. Looking to find the right balance, the Frenchman would go wide at turn ten after setting extremely quick sectors one and two. As he continued on his second push lap, a red flag waved as other drivers struggled with turn ten, becoming beached in the gravel trap. After a brief green flag, another stoppage would halt the Frenchman’s progress sending him back to the pits. Clément would return to the track for eleven minutes of uninterrupted practice, seeing him improve on each of his final laps of the session where he would finish with a personal-best time of 1:31.432.
The clouds rolled in Friday afternoon just as qualifying was about to begin, bringing fifteen-degree temperature and heavy rain. Drivers would struggle with the very wet track, seeing a red flag suspend the session just three minutes in as multiple cars spin into the wall. After the track was cleared, the Sophomore would set the fourth quickest time on his first push lap, and would continue to improve on his time every lap before he returned to the pits for light setup adjustments with a best time of 1:47.578, which was tenth fastest. The Frenchman would return to a track with conditions rapidly improving, and time for just one push lap. Setting a blistering first sector, Clément had quick pace through the second sector when another driver brought a premature end to qualifying after crashing. For the second consecutive race weekend, Clément would be unable to complete his last qualifying lap due to a red flag – a frustrating way to end up at the bottom of the grid when he was on pace for a top-ten qualifying time.
Saturday’s sprint race would see Clément starting from P19 after his disappointment in qualifying. The Frenchman would start on medium compound Pirelli tires, while others around him were on the softer rubber. Clément would suffer at the start as he would get swallowed up, losing a position on the first lap, however the Sophomore would make a double overtake on the next lap to move into P18, seeing him stay within DRS of the driver in front for the next several laps. By lap seven, he would move into P17 while stretching the gap behind by over two seconds. On lap fourteen the rain would return, seeing a few drivers on fading soft compound tires head to the pits for wet-weather tires, with Clément opting to stay on his medium compounds as there were only ten laps remaining. Two laps later a driver would spin causing the safety car to be deployed, seeing even more cars dive to the pits to change tires, where Clément stayed out on his medium tires. By the time racing went green again, there were just two laps left, and the Frenchman would cross the finish line in eleventh place – a solid finish after seeing him gain eight positions due to his tire strategy & experience in judging the conditions correctly.
Sunday’s feature race saw Clément get a lightning start on his medium tires as the lights went out, jumping three positions into the first corner, when he found himself stuck behind a car who had a slow exit. By the end of the first lap, the Frenchman was in P18 and would get bumped into the gravel by another driver on lap four, seeing him drop to P21. A lengthy safety car would slow the field on lap eight, so Clément decided to dive to the pits for his mandatory pit stop and tire change to the soft compounds. The Sophomore would use his experience in tire management and racecraft when racing went green again, seeing him put on an excellent recovery drive with multiple overtakes to P16 my lap twenty-six when another safety car was deployed. Clément chose to return to the pits for another fresh set of soft tires, and would have just three laps to recover from P17. The Frenchman would make three overtakes on his new tires as soon as racing resumed, and would pick up another two before the checkered flag waved to finish in P12.
Clément once again showcased superb tire management & racecraft while gaining a combined fifteen positions during both the sprint and feature races, however another ill-fated red flag in qualifying would stammer any hope of points. The Frenchman’s car has the pace in the races, and every effort will be made for a strong qualifying in three weeks when FIA Formula 2 heads to Baku, Azerbaijan from 28-30 April.
“Another difficult weekend after Friday’s frustrating qualifying. The car shows mega pace and performs flawlessly during the race, but I’m still missing out on points due to starting from the back. I’ll be giving it my all in Baku in three weeks.”
Friday 31 March: Free Practice – 20th, 1:31.432, 15 Laps | Qualifying – 19th, 1:47.578, 13 Laps
Saturday 01 April: Sprint Race – 11th, 0 Points, 22 Laps
Sunday 02 April: Feature Race – 12th, 0 Points, 33 Laps
ROUND THREE TOTALS: 0 POINTS, 83 LAPS, 438 KM DRIVEN