He may not have enjoyed the start to the season that he’d envisaged when joining Trident, but Clement Novalak insists that the title chase isn’t over yet, with the Frenchman ready to pounce on any mistakes those in front of him make.
Taking just a single podium so far, Novalak had at least been a consistent points’ scorer up until Spielberg, but a disastrous weekend - where he failed to score and retired twice - saw him drop to seventh in the standings, as PREMA Racing’s Dennis Hauger extended his advantage at the top of the table to 41 points.
It could have played out differently, though. Novalak collided with Matteo Nannini in a battle for first in Race 1, before getting helplessly caught up in a collision with Victor Martins and Arthur Leclerc in Race 3.
“Nothing is done until the chequered flag in Austin. The task is just a bit more difficult now,” said Novalak. “I have been relatively unlucky, especially at the Red Bull Ring, but on the other hand, Dennis (Hauger) has done an extremely good job and hasn’t yet had a 'drop round.'
“It is not often that you get a driver who can consistently deliver over seven rounds, so we have got to maximise our potential and hope that they have something of an unlucky weekend at some point. It is still achievable if we can deliver on that front, but we can only hope for the best.”
PREMA have won the Teams’ and the Drivers’ Championships two years on the bounce and are once again leading the way in both. And while their dominance isn’t quite as obvious as in the previous two campaigns, Novalak does believe PREMA still have the edge in terms of machinery.
“In the last few years, they have performed well, but I think that was partly because they had the best choice of drivers - they were always the first ones to pick their line-up.
“I think that everyone this year thought that it would be different with multiple teams, like ART and ourselves at Trident, getting a really strong line-up, but I think that it has actually made everybody understand that PREMA are still the dominant force in terms of their car.”
Novalak arrived in Budapest as the only Trident driver yet to experience the top step of the podium, and the Frenchman says that his teammates’ achievements not only motivate him, but also prove how strong their package is.
“The car is definitely quick,” he continued. “I am not certain, but I am pretty sure that if I had gotten past Frederik (Vesti) at Paul Ricard, then I could have won because I think our pace was much quicker than the others around me.
“Things just haven’t gone to plan. David (Schumacher) broke his points duct with a win, so that was pretty cool for him, and I was happy for him. That gives me confidence that the car is good enough to deliver good results. Obviously, a race win is important, but it’s still consistency that’s key in the championship.
“We need a really good weekend. Dennis is quite far ahead of us, but we’re only three rounds in and there are four to go. There is plenty of action and fun to still be had. I just hope that it goes our way.”