CIRCUIT DE BARCELONA-CATALUNYA | 2023 FIA FORMULA 2 ROUND SEVEN
Barcelona, Spain, 04 June 2023 – Clément Novalak Shows Strong Race Pace, Puts on Masterclass in the Wet
FIA Formula 2 returned to action this weekend, seeing the championship head to Spain for Round 7 of the 2023 season. After his disappointing race weekend in Monaco, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was a welcomed sight for Clément Novalak. Returning to Barcelona armed with the knowledge of the 671 KM logged during the in-season test earlier last month, the Frenchman was hungry for big points to get his Sophomore campaign back on target.
Sunny, clear skies opened the race weekend Friday morning, seeing a patient Clément Novalak electing to stay in the pits for the first fifteen minutes of free practice as he felt confident with the pre-race setup of his #21 Trident machine. His first push lap came with just over half the session remaining, seeing the Frenchman clock a time of 1:28.406, which was twelfth-fastest. A red flag would suspend the session with twenty-four minutes remaining when another driver became immobilized after spinning at turn 10.. After a lengthy delay, Clément would improve his time with personal-best sectors two & three, but was still a second and a half off the pace. On his final push lap, the Sophomore would best his time in every sector, improving his time by over half a second while setting the sixteenth-quickest time.
Qualifying later Friday evening saw very similar track conditions to free practice in the morning, with clear skies and thirty-six-degree track temperature. The “old” circuit layout was being adopted for this weekend, seeing the loss of the last chicane and a fast, long-sweeping final corner which would degrade the tires at a quicker pace. For his first flyer, the Frenchman would do an out lap, then a warm-up, seeing him attack the circuit with vigor on his fresh soft Pirelli tires. His time of 1:25.319 was only good for sixteenth, seeing him immediately try again. With tires that became too degraded after his first hot-lap, he saw no improvements and elected to return to the pits for fresh tires and a slight suspension tweak. Staying in the pits while other drivers continued to set laps, the Frenchman bided his time while the circuit continued to evolve. With just eight minutes remaining, Clément returned to the tarmac to finish qualifying. On his last flyer, he would improve in every sector, but was still off the pace by one second. With the nineteenth-fastest time, Clément would need to endure another difficult grid position for scoring points.
Saturday evening’s sprint race was held in very wet conditions as it continued to spit after raining earlier in the day. Due to puddles on the track, the race was started behind the safety car, seeing Clément thrive on his wet compound tires in the tricky conditions. By the end of the first lap, the Sophomore had already made four overtakes as other drivers struggled in the wet. Clément then made two more passes by the start of lap three, seeing him move into P13, where he would remain stuck behind the driver in front for the following several laps. The Frenchman was finally able to make the overtake on lap eleven, seeing him brave the outside of turn one in a spectacular move going into turn two. Now six seconds behind the point-scoring pack ahead, Clément was a man on a mission for the next eight laps, moving within one second of P11 when he made the call to pit for slick tires as the track was rapidly drying. As soon as he exited the pits, another driver crashed to bring out the safety car, effectively halting the aggressive plan of the Frenchman. Racing would resume on lap twenty-four, however every driver in the field was now on slick tires with just two laps remaining. After putting on a masterclass in the wet and gaining a total of eight positions, Clément would ultimately cross the finish line as the checkered flag waved in P11.
Sunday’s feature race brought sunny skies and hot track temperatures, seeing Clément start on the harder compound tires from P18 after a post-race penalty to a driver in front. As the lights went out, the Frenchman enjoyed his usual lightning start and as he began moving through the field, but in turn three a driver behind ran into his rear tires, giving Clément a puncture, forcing him to limp back to the pits for new tires. Rejoining the circuit almost a full minute behind the rest of the field, Clément’s race was over as quickly as it started. By lap ten he had already gained fifteen seconds on the cars in front, seeing him continue to drive a mistake-free race while slowly catching up to the field. Prolonging his stint for as long as possible, his hopes for a safety car never came, forcing him to make his mandatory pitstop on lap thirty-four, where he swapped for fresh soft tires. On the following lap he secured the fastest lap of the race by over a second, but would ultimately finish the race outside the top ten in P21, so he would not be awarded the bonus point.
Clément put on a masterclass in the wet, gaining eight positions during Saturday’s sprint race. Sunday’s feature race was effectively over on the opening lap due to another driver’s error, but the Frenchman put his head down to drive a mistake-free race to secure the fastest lap by over a second. Ultimately finishing outside of the top ten, he would not be awarded the bonus point, but Clément gained valuable knowledge going into a long break before a busy summer of racing commences. FIA Formula 2 returns at the beginning of July, where the Red Bull Ring in Austria will host Round 8 of the 2023 championship 30-02 JUL.
“It’s a shame we continue to struggle on Fridays being unable to hook it up during qualifying as the car has such strong pace during the races, in both the wet & the dry. I’m positive once we ace practice & quali we will be in a position to fight at the front.”
Friday 02 June: Free Practice – 16th, 1:27.901, 12 Laps | Qualifying – 19th, 1:24.532, 10 Laps
Saturday 03 June: Sprint Race – 11th, 0 Points, 26 Laps
Sunday 04 June: Feature Race – 21st, 0 Points, 36 Laps
ROUND SEVEN TOTALS: 0 POINTS, 84 LAPS, 391 KM DRIVEN