CIRCUIT DE MONACO | 2023 FIA FORMULA 2 ROUND SIX
Monte Carlo, Monaco, 28 May 2023 – Disappointment follows Clément Novalak to the Principality
FIA Formula 2 headed south to the Côte d’Azur this weekend, where Monaco played host to Round 6 of the 2023 championship season. Weaving through the renowned streets of Monte Carlo, the Circuit de Monaco’s tight walls and tricky corners leaves no room for error. Fresh after scoring the first points of his sophomore campaign, Clément Novalak arrived into Monaco hoping to build momentum before the second half of the season.
Staying true to F2 Monaco tradition, the race weekend started with cars heading out on track for free practice late Thursday afternoon, as qualifying is split into two groups on Friday due to the short length of the circuit. Clear, blue skies graced the circuit, seeing Clément on the attack immediately as he entered the famous streets of Monte Carlo. Setting multiple purple sectors on his first few push laps, the Frenchman felt at one with his Trident Motorsport #21 car on the soft Pirelli compound tires. Sitting in P2 with the second-quickest time of 1:24.808, a red flag with twenty-three minutes remaining would send Clément to the pits for small adjustments and a change to the super-soft tires. Following a brief five-minute delay, the Sophomore returned to the track searching for space to fine-tune his car for Friday’s qualifying session. After multiple laps mixing with traffic, Clément would set a personal best time of 1:23.284, good enough for P9. Not able to improve on his time over the next couple laps, a red flag would prematurely end the day’s only session, seeing the Frenchman ultimately finish with the fourteenth-quickest time.
After an evening to review data, qualifying got underway Friday morning under sunny skies with track temperatures over 48 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 1:24.008. 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 one and a half seconds, leaving time for one more push. During his final flying lap, Clément had set a blistering first sector, and was just approaching the tunnel when the rear of the car got out from underneath him and he hit the wall at Portier – ultimately ending the qualifying session with the Sophomore finishing with the sixteenth fastest time of the day.
Saturday evening’s sprint race saw Clément push immediately as the lights went out, picking up a position through Saint Devote after his aggressive start. He would go on to pick-up two more positions at the Fairmont Hairpin after an incredibly brave move on the outside. Showing great pace as he exited the tunnel, the driver in front would slam on his brakes through the Nouvelle Chicane leaving the Frenchman no time to react, causing Clément to break his front wing as he spun the driver in front and bringing out the safety car. Clément would have to pit to change his front wing, sending him to the back of the field as the race was restarted on lap five. Unable to regain position for the remainder of the race, the Frenchman would finish in seventeenth as the checkered flag waved, a disappointing ending to such a promising start to the race.
Sunday’s feature race saw Clément get a lightning start as the lights went out, jumping to P14 with his super-soft Pirelli tires on the cooler track temperatures. He would then quickly claim P13, where he would remain until lap 7 when he dove to pit lane as his tires were fading fast. The mechanics struggled with the front left tire, delaying his release back onto the track. He would renter the race all the way back in P20, a full eighteen seconds behind the nearest driver. A frustrating remainder of the race with no hope to climb back the order would ensue, seeing Clément drive an aggressive race to try and regain position. On lap twenty-two, he was in P16 when a driver in front had a heavy crash into the barrier, bringing out a lengthy red flag and a stoppage to the race. After a thirty-minute delay limited racing would resume, seeing Clément struggle to find pace and eventually crossing the finish line in P17.
Clément’s frustrating 2023 campaign continues with few positives to take away from Monaco. While the Frenchman showed strong pace in qualifying, he wasn’t able to put a solid lap together to secure a solid grid position for either race. Mistakes made by him and his team would spoil any chance of coming away from the Principality with points. With no time to rest, Clément and his team will put their heads down and push for strong results next weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for Round 7.
“Utterly disappointed with every session in Monaco. We just didn’t have the pace this weekend, and mistakes made by both the team and myself halted any chance at points. With Barcelona rapidly approaching next weekend, we just need to put our heads down and improve in all aspects of the race weekend if we want any chance of success.”
Thursday 25 May: Free Practice – 14th, 1:23.284, 21 Laps
Friday 26 May: Qualifying – 16th, 1:22.088, 10 Laps
Saturday 27 May: Sprint Race – 17th, 0 Points, 30 Laps
Sunday 28 May: Feature Race – 17th, 0 Points, 33 Laps
ROUND SIX TOTALS: 0 POINTS, 94 LAPS, 314 KM DRIVEN