Novalak takes maiden F2 win as title challengers falter

Novalak takes maiden F2 win as title challengers falter

NovalakNovalak takes maiden F2 win as title challengers falter

Frenchman Clément Novalak took his maiden FIA Formula 2 win at Round 12 in Zandvoort on a day when the title rivals all floundered.

The Feature Race victory is Novalak’s first since 2019, when he was racing in British Formula 3.

It’s Trident Racing’s second win after Richard Verschoor took their first in F2 in 2022 around Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit.

Having found himself in the lead when the Safety Car was called after championship leader Théo Pourchaire crashed on Lap 10, Novalak navigated the restart and held off Rodin Carlin’s Zane Maloney to win a race that timed out.

After the race, Novalak said: “It was kind of lucky I guess. It’s amazing to win finally, it’s been a while and it’s good to be back on top.”

The win is Novalak’s second F2 career podium, having been disqualified from third place in Austria earlier this season.

The 22-year-old becomes the 12th different winner in F2 in 2023 and the seventh first-time winner of the season after Hitech GP’s Isack Hadjar won Saturday’s curtailed Sprint Race.

It was a dramatic day in the title fight, as Frederik Vesti, Pourchaire, and the winner of the last two Feature Races, Jack Doohan, all failed to finish.

Chaos from before the start

The drama began before the car’s left the grid, as race control chose to start the formation lap behind the Safety Car, due to the grid being partially wet.

After a single lap behind the Safety Car, the cars were released but Invicta Virtuosi’s Doohan spun at the banked Turn 14 before crossing the line.

And as pole sitter Jak Crawford led the top four into turn 1, PREMA’s Vesti spun at Turn 1, while his teammate Oliver Bearman was tagged at the same corner by Juan Manuel Correa, forcing ART’s Victor Martins to go wide to avoid the carnage.

They all re-joined but Doohan’s race was run before it had even started.

Following three laps to recover the Australian’s car, DAMS driver Ayumu Iwasa out-braked himself and made contact with Kush Maini’s Campos, earning the Japanese driver a 10-second time penalty.

All this left championship leader Pourchaire fifth in his ART and with the slippery conditions, running longer on the tyres proved to be the way to gain positions as DRS was initially not enabled.

Pourchaire seemed to have catapulted himself into the lead as he pitted last of the top five, which included Crawford, Hadjar, Maloney and MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger.

But the joy was short-lived as the French driver lost control at the high-speed Turn 6 and crashed out of the race, cueing a mad dash for the pits before a Safety Car was called.

Due to the tight pit lane at the Dutch circuit, mandatory pit stops could not be served under Virtual Safety Car or Safety Car conditions.

Vesti hoped to capitalise on Pourchaire’s misfortune, but incredibly the Dane lost both rear wheels on his lap out of the pits, ending his race too.

When the race resumed on Lap 17, Novalak led Maloney, who passed Crawford for second, but there was time for a bit more drama as F2 rookies Martins and Bearman battled for fourth position.

Bearman squeezed Martins on the exit of Tarzan corner (Turn 1) to secure the position, before Martins made a dive into the banked Turn 3, attempting to snatch the place back.

Contact was made on the exit, and the British driver ended up hitting the barrier. The stewards deemed Martins at fault for the collision for “hindering” his opponent.

A mature drive

From Lap 20 onwards, the race settled down somewhat, and Novalak controlled the race, edging clear of Maloney.

Coming into the race, the Frenchman had scored just two points, although he had been removed from Austria’s Sprint Race results.

 

But in mature drive, the 22-year-old beautifully managed his tyres to keep the Barbadian out of DRS range, with Hitech’s Crawford more of a threat to Maloney than the Rodin Carlin driver was to the race leader.

“I was pretty surprised by the race pace,” Novalak said after the race, saying that during the last three laps he was “taking it a bit easy”.

The race winner said more tyre degradation was expected, adding that he was “chuffed to bits” to cross the line first.

Looking ahead, the Trident driver said qualifying would be key to any further success.

“It’s all going to come down to Qualifying, that’s been our big lacking point in Formula 2.”

#DutchGP #F2

Image: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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NovalakNovalak takes maiden F2 win as title challengers falter

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