Having scored two points throughout the season, the Trident driver seized every opportunity possible in the dramatic Sprint race from the 20th, only to be disqualified after the race.
With heavy hearts due to the passing of Dilano van t’Hoff, the 22-strong continued their action in Spielberg with a light rain ahead that supported the use of wet tires. As soon as the lights went out, many drivers, including Novalak, struggled to make the most of the dry tires.
Jehan Daruvala’s retirement after spinning off into the gravel brought out an early safety car that gave Novalak a chance to switch to slick, which allowed him to gain more positions effortlessly. By the time the safety car ended on Lap 5, he was already in the top ten, and his race only got better with the cautious drive that rewarded him with a podium.
The winner Jak Crawford was one of the only drivers aware of the tragic incident. Straight out of the car, Novalak and Victor Martins learned about the news as they prepared for the rostrum.
He said, “It was difficult circumstances to race in but especially only learning of it after the race because obviously with preparation and that I had no idea before, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag of emotions, really.
“It’s always good to get a good result like this one, especially after the tough year I’ve been, having just made the right call on the tires and then just kept it alive, and actually, the pace was really good in the end so plenty of positives.”
Starting the weekend with a promising free practice result in P10, Novalak showed that he had the pace but couldn’t maximize anything in qualifying, which has been an issue for the last few rounds.
However, Novalak smashed everyone’s expectations in the race with the beneficiary of the soft tires and DRS. Just six laps into the race, Novalak has already gained 13 places. On lap 17, he was already fighting for third as it took him another lap to beat Juan Manuel Correa. The French driver held his nerve to retain his position, despite the pressure from compatriot Isack Hadjar.
For Novalak, the finish means everything, as this was only his second time on the podium in Formula 2 apart from last season with MP Motorsport. He couldn’t be more pleased with his performance, with six points added to his tally: “Trident is very quick in the way. Obviously, we didn’t have the wet tires today, but as a whole, I think we’ve been making consistent progress the last few rounds. It’s just a shame that we haven’t been able to show it because our qualifying pace has just been poor.
“The race was never really too much of an issue, so it’s good to at least show that we’ve got that race pace, and hopefully, in the coming races, we can do a good job in qualifying.”
Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep the points after post-race investigations that disqualified him from the race due to the car’s rear tire pressure being below the required limit. This decision promoted Isack Hadjar to the final podium, and everyone behind moved up to one position, as Oliver Bearman inherited the last point in eight.
Following the Feature Race, Novalak would want the same strategy that could earn him vital points in the championship, just as how the Sprint Race should have ended.
He said: “The good thing about this track, though, is that it’s got triple DRS, which makes it fun to race sometimes a bit chaotic, but no overall, it’s still a very fun track to race on; at least you get a lot more moves here than would on you know Zandvoort for example or other tracks it’s a fun place to race.
“I wouldn’t mind having the same conditions all over again, but looking at the weather, it’s going to be dry, and hopefully, we can do a good job on strategy, pick the right way to go and get a few positions and try and get the points.
“We’ve got to remain level-headed, and I think we’ve got a good enough car to get at least points tomorrow, so hopefully, we can achieve that.”