Clément Novalak took his maiden Formula 2 victory in an incredible Formula 2 Feature Race at Zandvoort. The Trident driver kept himself out of trouble on a day where anything and everything was happening, to claim his first race win in the Championship.
Zane Maloney held Jak Crawford at bay for second. The Rodin Carlin driver managed his tyres to the end and kept the polesitter in the #9 Hitech Pulse-Eight behind him for his fourth podium of the season.
The top six in the Drivers’ Championship each experienced their own woes, with leader in the standings Théo Pourchaire and closest challenger Frederik Vesti both failing to finish after separate incidents took them out of the running.
AS IT HAPPENED
Racing got underway with a rolling start in slippery conditions and Crawford got a perfect launch to retain the lead. Behind him, Championship contender Vesti suffered a spin at Turn 1 to fall from third to 19th position, while PREMA Racing teammate Oliver Bearman was tagged by Juan Manuel Correa and ran wide into the gravel at Turn 1. The Van Amersfoort Racing driver was given a 10-second time penalty for the contact.
Victor Martins followed him off the track and both resumed in 14th and 15th respectively. Jack Doohan was another driver to hit trouble early, spinning in the last corner to bring out a Safety Car before the completion of Lap 1.
That was withdrawn at the end of Lap 3 and once again, Crawford judged his launch perfectly. Ayumu Iwasa looked to take seventh from Kush Maini but ran deep at Turn 1 on the damp part of the track, taking Maini off the road with him. The Campos Racing driver sustained front wing damage in the process, but both were able to rejoin the race albeit down the order. Iwasa was awarded a 10-second time penalty for the collision.
Maloney was the first of the leading pack to make their mandatory pitstop from fourth position, switching from softs to mediums on Lap 8. That pulled in leader Crawford, Dennis Hauger from P2 and Correa in third on the following lap. Isack Hadjar and Pourchaire remained on circuit one lap longer. Crawford and Hauger rejoined in the order they entered the pits and clear of Maloney. But, the Rodin Carlin driver was able to get past both with his tyres up the temperature on the outlap.
Hadjar and Pourchaire responded on Lap 10, and there was almost contact on entry as Pourchaire tried to get the car slowed down for the pit speed limit line. ART Grand Prix got their driver out in front though with a quicker pitstop, and the duo came out ahead of those who’d stopped earlier.
The Championship leader’s joy was short-lived as he spun off the circuit on his outlap, crashing out of the race at Turn 7. It brought out the Safety Car but not before PREMA double-stacked their drivers. Vesti’s hopes of retaking the lead of the Championship were dashed almost immediately though, losing both rear tyres on his outlap and he too was out of the running.
After all the drama, Novalak led the pack having stopped just prior to the Safety Car intervention. Crawford followed ahead of Maloney, Richard Verschoor, Martins, Bearman, Hauger, Hadjar, Enzo Fittipaldi and Amaury Cordeel in the top 10. The Safety Car was withdrawn on Lap 16 and racing resumed once more.
Maloney had the momentum into Turn 1 and passed Crawford around the outside to take second. Behind them, Bearman looked to have a move done on Martins for fifth position, but the pair made contact on the exit of Turn 3, sending the PREMA driver into the barriers. Martins continued in the top five, but Bearman was out on the running as a result. The Frenchman was later handed a 10-second time penalty for the incident.
After a damp start, DRS was enabled on Lap 22 and Correa put it to good use, taking 10th from Roy Nissany into Turn 1 on Lap 23.
With the Safety Car interventions, the race ran to time rather than the original 40 scheduled laps. With under 10 minutes to go, Maloney began to hunt down Novalak, closing to within two seconds and bringing Crawford in third along with him.
The Trident racer was able to respond to keep the Bajan driver at arm’s length to secure his maiden victory in the Championship and second scoring result of the 2023 campaign from 13th on the grid. He also claimed the fastest lap point en route to the chequered flag to cap off a great drive to victory.
Maloney was able to hold onto second after late-race pressure from Crawford, while Verschoor brought home fourth in his and Van Amersfoort Racing’s home event. Martins crossed the line in fifth but dropped to ninth with his time penalty. That promoted Hauger to fifth, Hadjar to sixth, Fittipaldi into P7, and Cordeel to eighth. Martins followed in P9 ahead of Correa, who rounded out the points for VAR.
KEY QUOTE – Clément Novalak, Trident
“Obviously buzzing. It was a long race but we managed to come out on top so super chuffed.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
It’s as you were after Théo Pourchaire, Frederik Vesti, Ayumu Iwasa and Jack Doohan failed to score. The ART Grand Prix driver retains the lead of the Drivers’ Championship on 168, with PREMA Racing’s Vesti on 156. Iwasa stays third on 134 ahead of Doohan on 130. Victor Martins stays fifth as the only driver in the top five to score, adding two points to his tally to move onto 122.
ART Grand Prix keep the lead in the Teams’ Standings on 288 ahead of PREMA Racing with 258 in P2. Rodin Carlin move onto 200 points in third position after scoring with both drivers in the Feature Race.
Formula 2 heads to Monza and the Temple of Speed for the penultimate Round of the 2023 campaign from September 1-3.