Novalak produces last lap stunner to take pole position at Silverstone GP circuit

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Ulysse De Pauw and Nazim Azman in BRDC British F3 Silverstone GP qualifying
Credit: BRDC British F3

The 2019 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship leader Clement Novalak saved his best effort until last as the British teenager set a lap time that was over half a second quicker than anyone else during the wet qualifying session around the Silverstone GP circuit. Novalak will start race one from pole position ahead of Chris Dittmann Racing driver Ayrton Simmons in second, and long-time provisional pole-sitter Neil Verhagen will ultimately starting the first race from third on the grid.

The session started in appalling conditions around the Silverstone GP circuit with all eighteen drivers spending the first five minutes of the qualifying session getting used to track conditions. After such time, Verhagen set the early pace as the Double R Racing driver set an early benchmark of a 2.19.230, some half a second faster than championship leader Novalak, with Kaylen Frederick, Simmons and Nicolas Varrone completing the top five during the early stages.

But as the drivers were getting used to the track conditions, the times started to improve thick and fast, and with eight minutes to go, normal service was resumed with championship leader Novalak setting an impressive 2.18.399 to go 0.6 s faster than his nearest title rival Johnathan Hoggard. But it was evident that was still plenty of pace to be found as Sasakorn Chaimongkol went a surprise third, only a couple of tenths behind Hoggard. Then moments later, Novalak put in another mighty lap to go 0.9 s quicker than the now second-placed driver Simmons, who was 0.3 s faster than Hoggard at the time.

Novalak’s great turn of pace mid-way through the session meant that it took a long time for anyone to make serious inroads and overhaul the championship leader’s laptime as he was locking down the fastest and second-fastest laptimes, thus giving him provisional pole position for both the first and third races of the weekend.

That was until Verhagen showed his speed once more with a 2.17.180 sent him to the top of the timing page, some 0.4 s ahead of Novalak, while Simmons once again put himself ahead of Hoggard who was struggling with the tricky conditions, and with a ten-place grid penalty to serve, he needed to pull out a special lap to salvage his weekend.

However, things only got worse for the Fortec Motorsports driver as a late scurry of times demoted him down to seventh, thus meaning that he will start the first race from a lowly seventeenth on the grid.

Meanwhile at the top of the timing sheets, Simmons managed a surprise late lap to go three-thousandths of a second faster than Verhagen after the American was fastest for much of the session. But before Simmons could celebrate, championship leader Novalak proved his worth with a time 0.5 s faster than the rest of the field.

Behind the top three, Frederick put in a last-ditch effort to go fourth ahead of Manuel Maldonado in fifth and Hampus Ericsson proving his worth once again with another solid qualifying effort to go sixth, while a last-ditch effort from Kiern Jewiss will see him start seventh courtesy of Hoggard’s ten-place grid penalty.

There is also some solace for Verhagen as the American racer set the second-fastest time, so he will start race three from pole position tomorrow afternoon.

Race one will start at 1500 GMT later on this afternoon, where Novalak will aim to extend his healthy championship lead with a win with Simmons and Verhagen will hope to give chase and will start the race in close company just behind.

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NCTJ Graduate and nominated finalist for Sir William Lyons Award in November 2018. Formula E and Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy TCF correspondent.
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