Clément Novalak is optimistic that he can translate his strong Practice pace into a solid result in Qualifying, an area he assesses as one of his weaknesses this season.

Getting back behind the wheel of his MP Motorsport car for the first time since September, the Frenchman immediately found a groove to claim the sixth-fastest time – his best Practice result since Round 3 in Imola – and is keen on replicating that form this afternoon.

“It was productive, we felt the sensations pretty well actually,” Novalak summarised. “After two months off, you’d expect a little bit of getting used to it, but it was more or less back straightaway, so that was a positive. Now we’ve just got to focus on Quali, do a good job and hope for the best.

“Obviously I think the track was extremely slow compared to last year, but I think that’s down to two things – mainly temperature and we’re still running the mediums. It’s still quite dusty out there, so I think that’ll be a big delta to what we’ll find in Quali.”

Novalaks best time of 138.417 was just over two tenths down on Ayumu Iwasas leading time
Novalak's best time of 1:38.417 was just over two tenths down on Ayumu Iwasa's leading time

Switching over to the red-walled soft compound for Qualifying, times are expected to tumble with over a second separating Oscar Piastri’s best Practice time from his pole position lap around the Abu Dhabi track last year.

READ MORE: PRACTICE: Iwasa sets the pace at Yas Marina

As a result, Novalak believes that mastering the art of tyre management will be key to putting together a clean lap and he’ll be searching to find the right balance across the Yas Marina Circuit’s 16 corners and long straights.

“It’s always a little bit of a game here in the sense that you can push a lot in Sector 1 and Sector 2, but often you’ll find the tyres go off in Sector 3. I think that was especially the case this morning because with the track being so slippery, Turns 2 and 3 you get some snaps through there – you can kiss the lap goodbye almost. The step on to the softs will help, but it’s still a case of trying to figure out what’s the best compromise between the two.

“I reckon there’ll be a massive jump in performance. Obviously, it’s something that you get used to as you go on throughout the season ‘cause it tends to be a much larger delta between Practice and Quali than you get in F3. I think everything will be quicker, so it’ll help the confidence in the high-speed, but I think in the slow-speed as well you’ll gain a little bit on braking performance, but a lot in medium-speed corners and especially traction. We’ll be looking for improvements everywhere!”

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With MP’s chance of doing the double and claiming the Teams’ Championship title on the line, Novalak’s aware that his results will be vital. Having qualified no higher than P10 this year, he hopes that by starting off on the right foot, he can continue the trend going forward.

“I’m confident that this morning went well so you go into Quali confident, but it’s obviously been a weak point this year, so we’ll take it as a positive that off the bat we’re quite quick. After that I’ll take the session as it goes and whether it goes well or bad, I’m sure I’ll learn something.”