The Frenchman’s performance means that the Dutch team will have one driver on pole in each race this weekend, with teammate Felipe Drugovich securing pole position also.
Novalak is weary of calling his P10 effort a turning point in his Formula 2 campaign, admitting that the consistency over a single lap is still lacking, but was more than happy to put his car inside the top 10 and secure a positive Qualifying result.
“I feel relieved, it’s been a long time since I had a good result in Qualifying. Last year we were consistent but consistently fifth or sixth apart from Sochi, so we had one good Quali last year. I’m hoping to have more than this one this year, but P10 is a big improvement from what we’ve had this whole year.
“There’s been a couple times where I think we could’ve been in the top 10 but we weren’t lucky to get it. Happy to get it today and I’m happy for my teammate to get pole, he’s on it now. MP have both cars starting on pole in both races so hopefully we can get some good results and bring home some trophies for the team on home soil.
“It’s been extremely difficult. I haven’t managed to adapt to the tyres. I don’t want to say I’ve made a massive step because I still feel like the gap to Felipe is quite big in that department. It’s good to get some confidence from it but there’s still a lot of work to do and that’s what we really need to focus on next week, in Abu Dhabi and in hopefully testing to come back with a strong seat and to nail it every single time. That’s where we lack the most, race pace has always been strong. Hopefully I can show that tomorrow.”
Novalak was one of those to get their final flying lap in early ahead of the red flag stoppage that spelled a premature end to the session for many.
Drugovich stepped out of his car with the clock still counting down, and the stop/start nature of the session prevented anyone else going back out on track and putting in a time good enough to trouble the top 10 in the order.
“It’s quite difficult from a driver’s point of view because you keep having to reset. It can be quite frustrating if you’re on a really good lap and that happens. Or having to come back to the pit lane after planning to do three laps and two pushes, having to stop, start again, stop, start again, it is very tough because you switch off then have to switch back on. Today, we still managed to do a pretty good lap so I’m happy.
“I think it was a case of fuel for most drivers. The fact that when you get a red flag, you have to do an extra warm-up lap or out lap, especially if you’re towards the end of a push lap, you’ve already burned that fuel off. I think a few of the drivers didn’t end up going back out because we didn’t have any fuel left.”
His best time came on a second attempt on the same set of soft tyres, something of an anomaly amongst the rest of the grid.
While he was pleased to have secured a top ten spot at the final opportunity, Novalak says that it won’t change MP’s approach for the rest of the weekend when it comes to tyre strategy in the Feature Race.
With overtaking already difficult, strategy looks to be the main avenue to make gains for the field during Sunday’s race. For Novalak, both races represent a great opportunity to get some momentum going ahead of the final rounds at Monza and Yas Marina.
“Somehow I did, so I guess that’s good. I’m not going to take it as a sign that the softs are going to last. Put it this way, I doubt I’m going to do a Paul Ricard where I show up with the soft tyres for the Sprint Race. They don’t last long so it’s going to be a a bit of a challenge to figure out when exactly to pit during the Feature Race. Obviously the fact that it’s a very tight pit lane, it’s going to make it pretty hectic in the pits, it’ll be a cool challenge.
“A good start is the key. Starts have been up and down this year but starting on pole and on the clean side of the grid should be a positive for us tomorrow. From then on, just putting your head down and trying to not make any mistakes. We’ve had strong race pace all year so in that sense, I’m confident about doing a good job. But it’s all words until tomorrow, when the gloves come off we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully well.”