Out Of Office with Clément Novalak

Out Of Office with Clément Novalak
It feels like this one has been a long time coming, but we finally found the time to sit down for an 'Out of Office’ chat with one of our favourite pals from the Formula 2 paddock. We caught up with Clem over drinks and ramen on a sunny evening in London's Notting Hill. From the podcast to his love of photography and his new ventures into the world of music, it was great to learn more about Clem’s life outside of racing.  
PF: Clem, how are you and how are you enjoying summer break?
CN: I’m good! It’s been a very fun three weeks. I’ve been enjoying myself left right and centre, all around Europe! 
PF: So where are we in the world right now? Set the scene…
CN: We’re at Jusu Brothers, it’s actually one of Marcus Armstrong's favourite spots in Notting Hill. It’s around six o’clock, the sun is setting, we’ve got glorious blue skies. It's not warm, but temperate, nice enough to wear a jumper. A good late-summer vibe. 
PF: What’s your go-to spot when you’re in London?
CN: I love Italian food so Cipriani is always a good shout, a very nice restaurant but a touch expensive. Jusu Brothers is a good spot if you want something healthy! For a drink, well there are many!
PF: Fill us in, what have you been up to in the break? 
CN: I went to Ibiza with some friends for a week, and had a very good time with a lovely group of people. And then came back to London and got into training again. Went to the South of France and did more training there…
PF: Where in the SOF?
CN: Provence and then Monaco for a few days to catch up with some friends. 
PF: How was Ibiza? It looked fun…
CN: Good. Insane. Put it this way, I think my time zones have shifted a bit. In Spain, they eat quite late and we wouldn't be sitting down for dinner until usually between 10 and midnight and then after that, well you know how it goes, it’s Ibiza! Honestly coming back to the UK has been a shock to the system. 
PF: Talk to us about DJing...
CN: So I started mixing through the pandemic because like everyone else I got pretty bored at home and so yeah it progressed and I've been doing that for a little while now. Some of my friends got into it at the same time so it's been fun and hopefully, well the plan is to release some music of my own at some point…
PF: Can you tell us about your DJ name?
CN: The name Majorelle, comes from a lovely garden in Morocco that my family and I used to visit when I was very young. The Jardin Majorelle is at the house of Yves St Laurent, he was a personal favourite of mine and a big visionary in the world of fashion, so the name was inspired by that.
PF: Are there any DJs that you're inspired by?
CN: Yes. So I’m very much into Afro House and Deep House music. So a kind of mix of African drum vibes and then electronic music on top in terms of melodies and chords. Black Coffee is one of the main ones, Keinemusik too. I look up to those guys a lot in terms of their style of music and hopefully, I'll be doing something like that at some point.
PF: Is it important for you to have those creative outlets and interests away from the sport?
CN: For me, yes because it allows me to switch off. Before the summer break, we had four races in five weeks and can you get so absorbed into the racing bubble over that time. When it's quietens it's nice to come back up for air and take a breath, and live more of a somewhat ‘normal’ life. So being able to have different outlets and hobbies is something I love. DJing and photography allow me to get away from racing. I love racing but it does get tiring and stepping away from it allows you to step back into it fully fresh.
PF: Your outlets all seem to be very creative!
CN: Yeah it's because I was really shit at maths!
PF: Were you creative at school?
CN: Arty up to a point. I like photography because it forces you to be creative, you have to get imaginative and work with what you have around you rather than just being able to draw or paint what comes to mind. At the same time, I was never really good at painting and I definitely couldn't draw so well, especially compared to my brothers! So yeah I just got into photography, and to be fair DJing was the same story. I tried instruments when I was young but was really bad at those too. With DJing it’s more about pressing buttons and creating what sounds good to you. 
PF: What are you shooting on?
CN: I am grateful to have a very nice Leica Q2, that I got for my 21st birthday. It was a big gift and it's one of the best things I think I’ve ever received.
PF: Do you take it everywhere you travel?
CN: Yes! I don’t shoot as much as I'd like to, mostly because of how busy our schedule is. But the thing is I'm living my dream in that I'm travelling and racing, I get to experience some incredible places and for sure it's great to capture those memories and adventures. I know one day I’ll be sitting down, looking back and saying "Yeah, that was pretty cool." Often in life, there are things you miss or you don't remember down the line, and I don't want to forget what I’m doing right now. I want to look back on this time and have a very good memory of it and I think photography allows me to do that visually.
PF: How do you think you would get on if you had to shoot an F2 weekend? Haha
CN: I’d be great haha! I’m genuinely trying to get hired here! I’d love it, the thing is I have a relationship with a few of the drivers and people in the paddock so that would be useful. I think you’re a lot more comfortable when you know the person you're shooting, so yeah that insight would be great. But I’d love it, racing was my passion in the first place and of course, it's my job now, but I also love watching it and being a part of it, so shooting a weekend would be so cool.
PF: We need you on the team…
CN: Get me in some shorts, an oversized Parc Fermé t-shirt, a media tabard on top, a couple of cameras swung around on me, the whole get-up…
PF: How’s the podcast going? Is that a kind of creative outlet for you as well? 
CN: The initial idea for the Screaming Meals wasn't mine in the first place, fairplay to Marcus and Rory for coming up with it and creating something that allows fans to see another side of racing. I think it got a lot of traction early on, because similar to F1 and Drive To Survive, it gave listeners a look behind the scenes, to see what we do on the other side and hear our stories. I do think it is a creative outlet and the plan is for it to grow into something bigger down the line. 
I think that because we know the people we interview, it can sometimes come across as a bit unfiltered, but at least we show our true personalities and allow the people that we interview to do that too. Hopefully, it can grow into something bigger and we can attract different guests from within F1, as well as other kinds of people in racing; people in management positions, and so on because it would be nice to shed light on those people too and to help the audience understand that they're not just team personnel or TV personalities, but human beings with a story, an experience in racing and a life behind the scenes.
PF: Does the podcast help you feel more connected to your fans and audience?
CN: Hugely, the reception we’ve had from fans since starting the podcast has been amazing and the amount of love that they show you when they come to learn who you are is cool too. The thing is, I've been a fan and I've watched racing my whole life. Before I was a racing driver, when I was eight years old or so, it always felt like there was a barrier that existed between someone you look up to and yourself, things like going up to ask for a photo or an autograph for example, sometimes there was a bit of stress around doing that. So for us now being able to show ourselves candidly, despite the job of a driver seeming super cool, I’m just a normal person, living a relatively normal life. It's nice to have the podcast as a platform to share that and connect us more! If we can inspire people along the way and allow them to feel part of the journey it's even better.
PF: Side note, did you enjoy Melbourne this year, with the fan-facing paddock?
CN: Unreal, loved it. Having the fans near the box was so cool because usually, you don't quite realise the number of people that are in the stands and who are fans of F2. The series has a rapidly growing fan base and having been in the sport for the last few years you can see the transformation and increased interest. So yeah Melbourne was awesome, having the fans next to us waving as we left the paddock towards the pre-grid was amazing. Also, we were on the other side of the world, so to get that kind of reception so far from home was cool too. 
PF: What is your favourite city you’ve travelled to for racing? 
CN: I would say Monaco is definitely up there for the glitz and glamour that surrounds the race weekend. I also love Budapest. The track is close to the city so you're able to enjoy that aspect of it at night, stay in good hotels, go to nice restaurants and Budapest is always full of great fans so there's a cool buzz and atmosphere around the weekend. It's a small place, so you’ll go to restaurants and fans will recognise you. It's nice to sign autographs and take photos in the city, as we don't always get to do that on race weekends. 
PF: Where is top on your travel list?
CN: Japan! But I want to go there for a month or so and fully experience it. And then obviously Brazil. Oh brazil… I just love it. I'm going this year, the plan is to head out there after Monza for a while and then maybe go again around New Year.
PF: You spend a lot of time in the air, so plane food, yes or no? 
CN: That’s a hard pass. As a Frenchman I enjoy my culinary delights, and plane food doesn't quite cut it. Put it this way, the RyanAir lasagne isn't doing it for me.
PF: What’s in the briefcase? 
CN: No comment.
PF: Which race has the best after-party?
CN: Monaco! Does get pretty pricey though. Budapest and Barcelona are also fun!
PF: Who is your Style inspiration? 
CN: YSL as a designer because he broke boundaries. For style, well I'm a classic guy, so I’m into anything timeless. In that regard, Roger Federer's looks are a good inspiration. 
PF: Is there one thing that you would love to master?
CN: I think music production honestly. It’s pretty complex so I would love to master the different aspects of it. 
PF: Do you read?
CN: Yeah I love reading.  I’ve never really been a fiction guy, I’ve always read factual stuff. A lot of history, a lot of self-improvement stuff as well. Recently though, well growing up I watched all the Harry Potter movies and my brothers have been saying I’m missing out by not reading the books so I've started reading the Harry Potter series. I started them about a week ago and I'm two books in now, going into the third and loving every minute of it. I have it on my phone so I'll be scrolling on social media and then get bored so I'll swipe up and switch to reading. 
PF: What do you do on the plane? Read?
CN: Yeah I read. I’ve also been watching some different shows. I like rewatching shows. Actually stop, I've remembered another style inspiration, Chuck Bass! 
PF: Oh you’re so Chuck Bass!
CN: Yeah I was thinking about what I've been watching recently and it reminded me, Chuck Bass! And Gossip Girl, what a show!
See you in Amsterdam xoxo 
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