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Never Say Never to Novalak After Chaos in the Zandvoort Feature Race

Written by Jasmin Low, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri


If one could describe the F2 feature race at Zandvoort in one word, that word would be chaos. It was a race filled with drama and devastation, with four of the top 6 in the championship not even finishing the race. Another way to describe this race is unprecedented, as Frenchman Clement Novalak took his first win in the junior series.

The newest entrant to the club of Formula 2 winners; Credit: Formula 2

If the Friday and Saturday happenings of both Formula One and Formula Two were any indication of a trailer for the main races, with incidents in both practice and qualifying, as well as the F2 sprint race not awarding points, with less than two racing laps completed under racing conditions, we should’ve known that the F2 feature was going to be an interesting race.


Zandvoort has proved to be a tricky circuit for both series, as rain wreaked havoc on every single session, and although this race did not see any rain itself, the wet track was the source of many drivers’ woes.


Joshua Mason stalled at the race start, but managed to rejoin the pack as the race saw a rolling start, one that Jack Doohan did not even make it to, immediately spinning on the banking at turn 14, and out of the race.


Championship leader Frederik Vesti spun, dropping him down to 19th, and his teammate Oliver Bearman was tagged by Juan Manuel Correa, dropping him to 14th. Victor Martins also dropped seven places from the first lap incidents, and Correa was later given a 10 second time penalty.


On lap four, Ayumu Iwasa and Kush Maini made contact, going off the track, and into the run-off, as Iwasa attempted to overtake the Campos racer into turn one. Both managed to keep going, although the duo dropped well down the order. Iwasa was also handed a 10-second time penalty for this incident.


After the seventh lap, race leader and pole sitter Jak Crawford made his way into the pits, along with second-placed Dennis Hauger. Isack Hadjar and championship leader Theo Pourchiare almost collided on pit entry on lap 10, and Pourchaire was able to beat Hadjar to the pit exit, after a perfect pitlane performance from his ART mechanics. Their good fortune took a turn for the worse, however, as Pourchaire went speeding into the wall in a nasty crash, becoming the second DNF of the race.


This turned into a perfect chance for Vesti to reclaim his championship lead from Pourchaire, as he found himself back inside the top five, from 19th place. However, Prema decided to take a risk by double stacking Vesti and Bearman before the safety car went out, due to Pourchaire’s crash. This was a crucial moment for the red and white, as in Zandvoort, pitting under a safety car is not allowed, which later caught out Boschung and Daruvala, the duo handed five second time penalties.


It was a disappointing day for Prema, as neither driver finished the race. Vesti’s rear tyres both fell off after exiting the pit lane, leaving him stranded and stripped of the chance to reclaim his championship lead. Bearman came into conflict with Victor Martins, who eventually squeezed him off the track and into the barriers, for which Martins was slapped with a 10 second time penalty, meaning he dropped to ninth on the results page.


As the track began to dry, the action slowed down, but the name Novalak was at the top of the timing screen. The French Driver, who had scored only two points all season, was now staring at his first race win in F2. The pressure was on, as he reported brake issues, tyre degradation, and the chasing pack was closing down on him. The race went to time instead of laps, and Novalak continued to lead the race as the clock ticked toward zero. Behind him, on-track battles between Crawford and Maloney for the last two podium positions, as well as Hauger and Martins, were playing out, although nothing eventuated from these battles.


Clement Novalak ended up taking the chequered flag first, becoming the thirteenth driver to claim victory in 2023, in a stunning drive, having started 13th on the grid. This win was his first since British F3 in 2019, and the first for his team, Trident, in 2023. Novalak scored maximum points from the race, including fastest lap, multiplying his total points tally by fourteen, going from 2 to 28 points. Maloney finished second, and Crawford occupied the final podium spot, whilst hometown hero Richard Verschoor came a close fourth.


The results from this race will see a shake up to the points standings, as only one of the top 5 finished in the points. In Formula 2, anything can happen within the space of one race. Four DNF’s, multiple collisions, and a slew of penalties meant that our eventual race winner was one who had never taken to the top step in F2. Only two rounds are left in the 2023 F2 championship, at Monza and Abu Dhabi. So, until then, NEVER say never.


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