Ready and raring to go for Formula 2’s debut around the Circuit Zandvoort this weekend, Clément Novalak believes that his recent experience around the Dutch track could give him the upper hand over some of his more experienced rivals.
Playing host to the 12th round of the 2022 campaign, there’ll be no shortage of support in the grandstands for the MP Motorsport driver at the team’s home race. The Frenchman admitted he and teammate Felipe Drugovich have been inundated with photos and autograph requests from their legion of fans, with a passionate following for the junior series obvious around the circuit.
“I’m feeling pumped, stoked. It’s going to be awesome; it’s going to be a big party for three days for everyone. It definitely makes us happy to see so many people vibing with the sport. The fans here are extremely passionate, so they also watch Formula 3 and Formula 2 which makes us really happy.”
Rolling the dice on the alternative strategy worked in Novalak’s favour last time out in Spa-Francorchamps, returning to the points with P9 in the Feature Race. While he reckons that tyre strategy could be significant, his thoughts are firmly focused on Friday and maximising his one-lap pace around a track where grid position can be vital to making or breaking your performance throughout the Sprint and Feature Races.
“Strategy is still going to be very important here, but I think Qualifying will be even more so because our DRS compared to F3 is not as powerful. Last year, it was already pretty tough to overtake in F3, so we really need to nail Qualifying. I think we made a step in Spa and if we can do that, then we’ve got a good chance at scoring some points in both races, which is what we want.”
Featuring 14 corners, including Zandvoort’s well-known banking, Novalak says he’s prepared to feel the physical effects of racing around the intimidating 4.259km track. On his last visit to the track in Formula 3, he earned himself a double podium, with back-to-back second place finishes. Whilst several of his fellow drivers have some experience there, he feels that their lack of recent knowledge of the circuit could give him an added advantage when it comes to finding the sweet spot-on track.
“From the drivers’ point of view, I think the rookies have a slight advantage because we were obviously here last year. It’s one of those ballsy tracks where you need to be on the limit and it can be quite daunting, especially with the high speed down the back section. For the teams, it’s a massive challenge because they’ve never driven here.
“The setup up is still a bit of a question mark, so I think Practice will be extremely important. At the same time, knowing that not many people have been here before, the chance of red flags is a little bit higher – it's a challenge we look forward to. If we want to get some good results, we need to nail the car. I need to nail the driving, be confident and have fun.
“I think it will be more of a challenge physically. I still remember F3 last year and the steering tends to be a little bit heavier in F2, so you have to do more steering as well. It’s going to be physical, I think most drivers are going to suffer a little bit, but it brings more mistakes out of us, so I think it makes the racing a little bit more entertaining.”