HUNGARORING | 2023 FIA FORMULA 2 ROUND TEN
Budapest, Hungary, 23 July 2023 – Clément Novalak Suffers Double-DNF in Frustrating Budapest Weekend
FIA Formula 2 traveled east to Budapest over the weekend, seeing Hungaroring play host to the tenth round of the 2023 championship season. Known for its twisty corners and high tire-degradation, a solid qualifying would prove vital as the Hungaroring provides limited opportunity for overtakes. After a string of disappointing races, an optimistic Clément Novalak arrived on scene eager for a solid weekend.
Friday morning opened up Clément’s race weekend under overcast skies and a threat of rain for free practice. Sitting in the pits for the first twenty minutes while the Frenchman’s team worked on the rear of his car would put him on the backfoot from the onset, seeing Clément finally hit the track with twenty-five minutes remaining in the session. Needing to find the right balance for qualifying later Friday, the Sophomore searched for the limits immediately. On his first push lap, Clément clocked a time of 1:30.313 for fifteenth fastest. After Frenchman found more time on his second push, improving a further .300 of a second, he would head to the pits for setup adjustments. Returning to the track with just nine minutes remaining in the session, Clément would have time for just two more attempts at a fast time. On his first push he would break the 1:29 barrier, while on his second and final lap, he improved further to finish in P15 with a time of 1:29.759.
After showers throughout the day, qualifying got under way on a newly-dried track and cool track temperatures. Looking to ace qualifying in hopes of a strong grid spot, Clément would use his first two laps to fully prepare his soft compound Pirelli’s. His first push lap of 1:29.5 was only good enough for P18, but on his second flyer he showed tremendous pace through sector one. At the beginning of sector two a red flag would halt his progress, sending him to the pits for slight setup changes and fresh tires. After the track was cleared of debris, Clément returned to the circuit with time for two more attempts. On his first, he would improve in every sector and besting his time by a full-second. On his final flyer, he would set a top-five first sector and was improving through the second sector, when his progress was stopped by an impeding driver in front, ultimately seeing the Frenchman finish the session in P15 with a time of 1:28.542.
Saturday evening’s sprint race brought scorching fifty-degree track temperature after a day of sunshine. As the lights went out, Clément had a great start but was squeezed through turn one, seeing him lose a position by turn two. He would then fall into a DRS train at the start of lap two, searching for any opportunity to make progress up the field from P16. Driving an error-free race for the next ten laps saw the Frenchman glued to the driver in front while he pulled away from the pack behind. On lap twelve, Clément saw an opening at turn one, so he made a late lunge down the inside, but unfortunately his rear brakes locked and he turned into the driver in front, braking his front wing. Continuing on for a few more turns, it was evident that his front suspension was also broken, forcing Clément to park his car and end his race.
The sun returned for Sunday’s feature race, seeing Clément line up from twentieth on the grid after receiving a five-place grid penalty from his accident on Saturday. Starting on the alternate strategy on medium compound tires, the Frenchman would have a solid start. Maintaining his position throughout the first lap, Clément felt that his car was down on power. By lap four the problem was more evident, prompting his team to advise him to pull off in a safe area, seeing the Frenchman end his race before it ever really began due to electrical issues on his car – his first double-DNF race weekend since Monaco last year.
Clément had high expectations going into Budapest after a string of disappointing races, but continuous bad luck followed the Frenchman to Hungary. Limited track time during free practice on Friday put him on the back foot, followed by promising pace in qualifying before being impeded on his final flyer. An accident would ruin his sprint race, while technical issues with his car ended his feature race prematurely. Clément and his team have to regroup immediately, as FIA Formula 2 heads to one of his favorite circuits this weekend, seeing Spa-Francorchamps host Round 11 of the 2023 championship season from 28-30 July.
“I don’t know what to say honestly. Clearly I’m frustrated to no finish either race, however I had promising speed during qualifying. Another weekend with no points is very disappointing, especially as I had high expectations going into Budapest. I’ll regroup with Trident this week before heading to Spa. It’s a special circuit which I thoroughly enjoy, so I’m hoping for positive results.”
Friday 21 July: Free Practice – 15th, 1:29.759, 16 Laps | Qualifying – 15th, 1:28.542, 13 Laps
Saturday 22 July: Sprint Race – DNF, 0 Points, 12 Laps
Sunday 23 July: Feature Race – DNF, 0 Points, 3 Laps
ROUND TEN TOTALS: 0 POINTS, 68 LAPS, 193 KM DRIVEN