JEDDAH CORNICHE CIRCUIT | 2023 FIA FORMULA 2 ROUND TWO
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 19 March 2023 – Clément Novalak Shows Progress in Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomed the FIA Formula 2 championship this weekend for round two of the 2023 campaign, seeing Clément Novalak return to the port city of Jeddah on the Red Sea. The super-fast Jeddah Cornice Circuit was a welcomed site after a disappointing season opener for the Frenchman. Craving the first points of his sophomore F2 campaign, Clément and his Italian squad, Trident Motorsport, were poised to rebound on the twisty, high-speed street circuit.
The race weekend started with free practice late Friday afternoon, seeing the track temperature at a scorching 52 degrees. Clément wasted no time attacking the circuit on his medium compound Pirelli tires, setting the ninth fastest time on his first push lap at 1:45.961. He would continue to improve in each sector on his following two laps before he would head to the pits for light setup adjustments and fresh tires with just over twenty minutes remaining in the session. Clément would enjoy the changes made to his Trident car during his next four push laps, seeing massive time improvements in every sector. The Sophomore would finish the session with the sixth fastest lap at 1:44.291 and was feeling very confident as he returned to the paddock after an incredibly productive seventeen tours around the fast street circuit.
As the sun began to set later Friday evening, bright lights would illuminate the circuit for qualifying, seeing the tarmac cool to thirty-eight degrees. Clément would go out on super-soft compound Pirelli’s for the first time this season, utilizing the first half of the session to get a feel for the car on the softer tires and cooler track temperature. The Frenchman would return to the pits in seventeenth position with a time of 1:43.726, knowing exactly where to fine-tune his suspension for the last half of the session. With just eight minutes remaining, the Sophomore had enough time for two push-laps, setting an excellent time of 1:42.576 on his first attempt. On his final push, Clément would set a personal best first sector, and was on pace for a top-five qualifying time when a driver in front crashed and brought a stoppage to the session. With only two minutes remaining, the race stewards decided to not restart the session, halting the blistering pace the Frenchman hoped to finish with, ultimately seeing Clément qualify with the eleventh quickest time.
Due to a procedural error made by his team after qualifying, Clément would start Saturday evening’s sprint race from a penalized sixteenth position on the grid. The race would prove to be uneventful once the lights went out, seeing Clément hold his position for the first seven laps when an accident up front would bring out the safety car. Racing would resume on lap ten with the Sophomore now in fifteenth position, where he would remain until falling into the grasps of DRS on lap fourteen. The Frenchman would battle valiantly for the remaining six laps, making a fantastic overtake just as he crossed the finish line with the checkered flag waving to regain his fifteen position by just .035 seconds.
Sunday’s feature race saw Clément starting on super-soft Pirelli’s, which proved to be a challenge under the baking sun and forty-eight-degree track temperature. As the lights went out, the Sophomore had a fantastic start, but would be squeezed out of an overtake in turn 2, seeing him remain in eleventh position through the end of the first lap. A virtual safety car (VSC) on lap two would briefly slow the pace of the field, and Clément would fall to P12 when racing resumed, where he would remain until his tires began deteriorating on lap four. By lap six, his tires were finished, seeing him drop to P15 before diving to the pits for a change to medium tires. He would rejoin the track in P19, seeing him use DRS to claim P18 on lap twelve. Another VSC would give the Frenchman P16 on lap seventeen, where he would ultimately finish the race ten laps later.
Clément was able to maximize his free practice by applying his experience to find the right balance in his car for qualifying, where he was on pace for a top-5 time if it wasn’t for a premature red flag. A team error would hinder likely points in the sprint, and his car lacked pace in a disappointing feature race. The Frenchman looks to make a statement in Australia in two weeks, where the FIA Formula 2 championship will be racing for the first time in Melbourne from 31 March – 02 April.
“The weekend started off great in free practice, setting me up for a decent qualifying. Unfortunately, the mistake made by the team dropped me out of any chance for points on Saturday, and we just didn’t have the pace on Sunday. We win & lose together, so we will regroup before we head to Australia. It’s a new race for the entire grid, so Albert Park looks to be the perfect track to bounce back and make a statement.”
Friday 17 March: Free Practice – 6th, 1:44.291, 17 Laps | Qualifying – 11th, 1:42.576, 11 Laps
Saturday 18 March: Sprint Race – 15th, 0 Points, 20 Laps
Sunday 19 March: Feature Race – 16th, 0 Points, 28 Laps
ROUND TWO TOTALS: 0 POINTS, 76 LAPS, 469 KM DRIVEN