SILVERSTONE CIRCUIT | 2023 FIA FORMULA 2 ROUND NINE
Silverstone, United Kingdom, 09 July 2023 – Clément Novalak Leaves Silverstone Frustrated and Without Points
The FIA Formula 2 championship headed to the United Kingdom this weekend, seeing the historic Silverstone Circuit play host to Round 9 of the 2023 season. Known for high-speeds and sweeping corners, Silverstone has proven to be a successful circuit for Clément, seeing past wins during his 2019 British F3 Championship season, as well as a 2nd place finish on his FIA Formula 3 debut. The Frenchman arrived with hopes of turning his sophomore campaign around going into a busy summer schedule.
While the sun beamed over Silverstone Friday morning, Clément would wait in the pits for ten minutes before heading out on hard compound Pirelli tires for free practice. Needing to dial in his #21 Trident Motorsport car before the evening’s qualifying, Clément began to look for the limit after setting a time of 1:43.392 during his first push lap. Improving through his second push, a driver in front would go off at the exit of Copse corner, halting the Frenchman’s progress and bringing out a red flag. After an eight-minute stoppage, Clément would attack the circuit on his first push out of the pits. Midway through his second flyer, a VSC would slow the field, leaving enough time for just one more push by the time the track went green again. Improving through sectors one & two, Clément unfortunately went off at the exit of Stowe corner, bringing a premature end to the session after he became beached in the gravel.
The sun would continue to bake the British circuit before Friday evening’s qualifying session, bringing an incredibly hot track temperature of over forty degrees, necessitating the need to manage the soft compound Pirellis. After two warm up laps to build tire pressure, Clément would find himself in P13 after setting a time of 1:41.392. While pushing even harder on his second attempt, a driver crashes at the final corner to halt the Frenchman’s progress, sending him to the pits for a lengthy red flag. The session would be shortened with enough time for just one more flying lap, seeing Clément set a blistering first sector. A driver immediately in front would make a mistake and spin through the gravel, seeing the Frenchman have to slow through the double-waved yellow flags in the second sector. Losing almost a second in the middle sector, Clément would still improve on his overall time, however without the yellow flags he would have surely finished in the top ten.
The sun retreated for Saturday evening’s sprint race after rain throughout the day. Tricky conditions and a very wet track saw Clément on wet compound tires as the race got underway behind the safety car. After the rolling start procedure, the Frenchman would masterfully dart through the field, picking up three positions as others struggled in the wet. Securing two more positions by lap three, it seemed Clément was thoroughly enjoying racing in the precarious conditions. Lap five would see the Sophomore make another overtake to P14, however his wet tires begin to lose grip after his quick charge through the field on the opening laps. While desperately looking for wet patches to cool his fading tires, Clément would yield his position to settle back in P15 on lap nine. After valiantly fighting off attacks from behind for the remainder of the race, the Frenchman would cross the line in fifteenth, however was handed a five-second penalty for an incident on the opening lap, seeing him in P17 in the final classification.
Sunday’s feature race brought overcast skies and cool track temperatures with a small chance of rain. Starting on the alternate strategy, Clément would focus on managing his hard tires through the first few laps, seeing a calculated, conservative start by the Frenchman. By lap four, he had already claimed two positions, seeing him move into P17 on lap six. A safety car on the following lap would incentivize the soft tire runners to pit under yellow. The safety car would come in a couple of laps later, but just as racing would resume an accident further back brought the immediate return of the safety car. This meant Clément could use this to his advantage, opting to change to soft tires while the entire field had to crawl through the pit lane. Emerging in P6, the Frenchman seemed to be in prime position for the remainder of the race for a solid points’ finish. Racing would finally resume with ten laps to go, seeing the Sophomore in a fantastic multi-lap battle for P5. Unfortunately, his soft tires weren’t able to hook up with the track, which sent the Frenchman tumbling through the field as the hard tire seemed to be the better option. By lap twenty-five he would be in the last points’ scoring position of P10, and would drop out of the points to P11 the following lap, ultimately crossing the finish line in P12 – an unfortunate end to a frustrating weekend.
Clément’s qualifying woes followed him to Silverstone, seeing bad luck intervene on a promising final push lap while on pace for a top ten result. The Frenchman would gain a total of ten positions over the weekend, while enjoying a fierce battle at the front of the field during the feature race, but leaves the United Kingdom frustrated and without points. Round 10 of the 2023 FIA F2 championship heads to Budapest in two weeks, where Clément looks forward to attacking the Hungaroring from 21-23 JUL.
“Qualifying really set me back again this weekend. It’s a shame as I lost almost a second through the double-waved yellow and would have been in the top ten. – but it is what it is. We almost lucked out in the feature race, but the softs just wouldn’t work properly on Sunday. Hungaroring is one of those circuits where qualifying is extremely important, so I hope to put a great lap together in a couple of weeks to put myself in position for strong points.“
Friday 07 July: Free Practice – 20th, 1:42.764, 10 Laps | Qualifying – 20th, 1:41.106, 10 Laps
Saturday 08 July: Sprint Race – 17th, 0 Points, 19 Laps
Sunday 09 July: Feature Race – 12th, 0 Points, 29 Laps
ROUND NINE TOTALS: 0 POINTS, 68 LAPS, 401 KM DRIVEN