CIRCUIT DE MONACO | FIA F2 ROUND FIVE
Monte Carlo, Monaco, 29 May 2022 – Clément Novalak Faces Double-DNF in Frustrating Monaco Weekend
FIA Formula 2 headed south to the Côte d’Azur this weekend, where the legendary streets of Monte Carlo played host to Round 5 of the 2022 championship season. Fresh after scoring points in his last two feature race outings, Clément Novalak arrived into Monaco looking to build on that momentum. With Barcelona being just one week ago, the Frenchman and his team MP Motorsport tried to make the most out of limited preparation time. Tire management would again be a factor for the second weekend in a row, as Pirelli brought the two softest tire compounds to Monaco – the softs and super-softs.
Staying true to F2 Monaco tradition, the race weekend started with cars heading out on track for free practice Thursday evening, as qualifying is split into two groups on Friday due to the short length of the circuit. With the sun beating down on the track, Clément looked to fine-tune the setup of his MP Motorsport car before qualifying the next day. Traffic proved to be the story of the session, as the young ace struggled to find separation with other cars for the entirety of practice. By the halfway mark, Clément headed back to the pits for fresh tires after a lap time of 1:25.700. On Clément’s first lap out with new tires, he improved his time by over 1.5 seconds, and was unable to find more pace before finishing the session in with the 21st quickest lap.
After an evening to review data, qualifying got underway Friday morning under sunny skies with track temperatures over 40 degrees. Clément was in Group B for split-group qualifying, heading out on track after the first sixteen-minute session was finished. The Frenchman utilized his first three laps for reconnaissance & familiarization. After setting a gap to the driver in front, Clément started his first push lap, clocking in a time of 1:23.884. With only seven minutes remaining in the session, he had time for two more attempts to find more pace. He bested his time on his second attempt by over half a second, with time for one more push. During his final push lap, Clément had set a personal best first sector, and was just approaching the Fairmont Hairpin when a driver unfortunately had a big crash near the Swimming Pool Chicane, bringing out a red flag and a premature end to the session. Clément’s best time was 1:23.180, ultimately qualifying 16th.
Clouds began to roll in just before Saturday evening’s sprint race, dropping track temperatures after a scorching 30-degree day. The race finally got underway after a thirty-minute delay, with Clément starting from P14 due to post-qualifying penalties of other drivers. After getting a great start as the lights went out, Clément was going into Saint Devote, when the drivers in front on the inside bunched up, allowing the ones on the outside line to keep momentum. After losing out on the opening corner, the young ace kept his head down and was able to finish the first lap in the same position he started; P14. Knowing Monaco is notoriously difficult to make overtakes, Clément would have to bide his time and pressure the driver in front to make mistakes. For the first several laps, the Frenchman showcased his great race pace by pulling away from the drivers behind, while staying within .200 of the driver in front. Without being able to make the pass, the attacking drivers behind began to make ground on Clément by lap eight. On the next lap, Clément was making the turn at Rascasse, when an over-eager driver dove down the inside and made contact, pushing Clément wide into the wall bringing out the safety car. The offending driver received a ten second penalty for causing the collision, but Clément was not able to continue, effectively ending his race twenty laps early and leaving the Frenchman extremely frustrated.
The sun returned for Sunday morning’s feature race, warming the circuit to thirty degrees. Starting from P15, Clément had already gained 2 positions to move into P13 through Saint Devote, making his move toward the points. For the next few laps, the Frenchman settled into place with the driver in front, while managing the drivers behind. By lap eight, drivers began to head to the pits to change tires, with Clément moving into P8. On lap nineteen a safety car brought was deployed, giving Clément an ideal time to pit without losing too much position, finding himself in P12 when he rejoined the pack. On lap 22 racing returned to green, with Clément struggling to get his tires up to speed and was lacking pace. On the next lap, the Frenchman was attacked aggressively from behind while going into the Fairmont Hairpin, when the driver made a move down the inside, and clipped the front left wheel of Clément, sending the Frenchman into the wall and ending his race prematurely for the second consecutive day.
With high expectations going into Monaco after his previous two rounds, the weekend proved to be the most difficult of the Frenchman’s first Formula 2 campaign. After a challenging practice put Clément on the back foot, he struggled to find pace going into qualifying, and was taken out in both races by other competitors. Clément has two weeks to regroup with his engineers, and will dive deep into the data of previous rounds to be fully prepared for Round 6 in Baku, Azerbaijan next month from 10-12 June.
“I’m extremely frustrated with the way my weekend went. I struggled with pace from the onset, and didn’t qualify where I should have, which put me on the back foot for the races. To be put into the wall by other drivers to end both of my races is beyond frustrating, especially as we had such high expectations going into Monaco. I will work overtime with my team to ensure we are properly prepared for Baku in two weeks.”
Thursday 26 May: Free Practice – 21st, 1:24.046, 26 Laps
Friday 27 May: Qualifying – 16th, 1:23.180, 10 Laps
Saturday 28 May: Sprint Race – DNF, 0 Points, 10 Laps
Sunday 29 May: Feature Race – DNF, 0 Points, 22 Laps
ROUND FIVE TOTALS: 0 POINTS, 68 LAPS, 227 KM DRIVEN