CIRCUIT ZANDVOORT | 2023 FIA FORMULA 2 ROUND TWELVE
Zandvoort, Netherlands, 27 August 2023 – Clément Novalak Wins Feature Race in Commanding Fashion
After a much-needed summer break, FIA Formula 2 headed to the northern Dutch seaside town of Zandvoort this weekend for the twelfth round of the 2023 Championship. Clément Novalak has enjoyed success at Circuit Zandvoort in the past, including his first podium in Formula 2 last season, and two second-place finishes at Zandvoort in 2021 while driving in FIA Formula 3, so he arrived to the Netherlands poised to attack the tricky circuit, knowing qualifying would be key to ensuring a successful weekend.
After rain on and off, a chilly, partly cloudy Friday morning opened up the race weekend, seeing Clément wait fifteen minutes to attack the track while the sun continued to dry the damp circuit. After a reconnaissance lap and a warmup lap, the Frenchman set his first flyer with a time of 1:25.181, which was sixth-quickest after everyone finished their first push laps. As the track evolved, Clément was able to improve on his next lap by over a second, before he returned to the pits for slight setup adjustments with twenty minutes left on the clock. After just five minutes in pitlane, the Sophomore would return to the track to continue dialing in his #21 Trident Motorsports car. On his final push lap, he felt extremely confident with his setup and overall feel of the car, he would improve his time to 1:23.768 to finish eleventh-quickest of the session.
Later Friday would bring a slightly damp track and threatening clouds as qualifying got underway. The Frenchman would jump to the top of the timing sheets after his first push lap with a time of 1:22.003. Feeling dialed into Circuit Zandvoort, he would improve on his next push with a time of 1:21.599. Immediately after his second push lap, Clément elected to pit for a fresh set of soft Pirelli tires and minor setup adjustments. With just ten minutes remaining in the session, the Frenchman returned to the track looking for more time, as he was just .389 off pole position. His first push was disrupted when a driver went into the wall, bringing out the first red flag of the session. After a brief delay, the green light illuminated with seven minutes remaining, however another driver became beached in the gravel bringing out another red flag. When the session finally resumed, Clément had time for just one more push lap, and was showing incredible pace through the first two corners. In turn three, the Frenchman would barely go wide, seeing him clip his front wing at the exit of the corner, bringing a premature end to his qualifying. Although he finished with the thirteenth-fastest time, he was still just .389 seconds off pole, and felt very confident going into the races.
Saturday evening’s sprint race brought rain and a soaked track, seeing Clément starting in P12 after a post-qualifying penalty to a driver in front. Due to the wet track, race control deemed it necessary to have a rolling start behind the safety car. After two laps, racing got underway, seeing a driver in front go wide at turn one and Clément moving up to P11. Further along the opening lap, multiple cars around the Frenchman made contact at turn seven, seeing the Sophomore emerge from the spray somehow unscathed in P8. A red flag would immediately halt the race as repairs would be needed to the barrier due to the heavy impact. After a lengthy thirty-minute delay, the drivers returned to the track behind the safety car to test the conditions. Following three laps under yellow, it was deemed too treacherous to return to racing, and it was decided the race would not be resumed. Since there weren’t two laps completed without the intervention of a safety car, no points would be awarded – ultimately a disappointing end as Clément expertly picked up four positions in just seven corners to earn his one championship point.
A slightly damp circuit and chilly air temperatures would prove a challenge for some drivers at the start of Sunday’s feature race. Starting on soft Pirelli tires, Clément would pick up multiple positions through a hectic first lap, seeing him in P8 once the safety car was deployed. Racing would resume after two laps under caution, when the Frenchman moved into P7 through turn one as other drivers struggled to come to terms with the tricky conditions. Showing massive pace, Clément would stretch the gap to over three seconds to the driver behind, while maintaining pressure on the drivers in front. Lap six would see drivers begin to enter the pits, while the Sophomore elected to stay out on his tires for as long as possible. Driving an incredibly smart and calculated race, Clément opted to pit for a tire change on lap ten when another driver went into the wall. Expertly judging the timing, he would emerge from the pits in the lead of the race just as the safety car was deployed. Racing resumed at the end of lap sixteen, seeing the Frenchman stave off an aggressive attack from behind by setting the fastest lap during each of the next four laps, stretching the gap to almost two seconds by the time DRS was enabled on lap twenty-two. Clément would continue to drive the best race of his 2023 campaign, staying in front by comfortable margins while maintaining his medium Pirelli tires. He would take the checkered flag in P1, winning the race by over two seconds, marking the first time the Frenchman has stood tall on the top step of the podium since his last single-seater win in 2019 when he won the BRDC British F3 Championship.
Clément jumped on the top step of the feature race podium after winning his first FIA Formula 2 race in commanding fashion. Smart, calculated drives by the Frenchman lead to the best weekend of his sophomore F2 campaign; with four positions gained and a top ten finish during the sprint race, and a remarkable twelve positions gained and the win in the feature race. With no time to rest before Monza next weekend, Clément looks to keep the momentum going into the penultimate round in Italy for Round 13 from 01-03 September.
“I’m thrilled to come away from Holland this weekend with my first win in FIA Formula 2. Trident gave me a fantastic car for one of my favorite tracks, and I’m proud to reward my team with their first feature race win ever in F2 as well. We’ve worked incredibly hard all season, so it’s refreshing to get this result. I look to carry this momentum into Monza next weekend.”
Friday 25 August: Free Practice – 11th, 1:23.768, 16 Laps | Qualifying – 13th, 1:21.599, 10 Laps
Saturday 26 August: Sprint Race – 8th, 0 Points, 2 Laps
Sunday 27 August: Feature Race – 1st, 26 Points, 38 Laps *Fastest Lap*
ROUND TWELVE TOTALS: 26 POINTS, 66 LAPS, 281 KM DRIVEN