Despite showing podium pace in practice sadly Olli Caldwell’s weekend would turn into one to forget at Mugello. A difficult qualifying left Olli down the lower order of the top ten and as many would discover making any progress was extremely difficult particularly with no safety cars at all over the weekend. Two points finishes have kept Olli fifth in the standings, but it makes his task of moving up the order very tough at the season finale next weekend. There would be some positives to take away with Olli and his Prema teammates wrapping up the Teams Championship with one round remaining.
Early signs for Olli were very positive. On a track where he took podiums in Italian F4 last year, the Briton finished sixth in the opening practice session just three tenths behind teammate Frederik Vesti in second. Olli was also on terms with wildcard entry Jake Hughes, a podium finisher in this year’s FIA Formula 3 Championship.
That pace was reflected moving into the second session with Olli finishing fifth place overall. Just two tenths off former ADAC F4 Champion Lirim Zendeli, Olli was yet again showing he could compete with the FIA F3 drivers who had come along for a play and was displaying race pace that had put him well in contention to add to his seven podium finishes.
Things were looking positive heading into qualifying, but unfortunately that is where things would start to go wrong for Olli. In very short fifteen minute sessions getting a lap in whilst the tyres are at their best is crucial. A bad session can damage your entire weekend in F3 racing and Olli would not put in his best lap whilst his tyres were at the best and was left down the lower order of the top ten for all three races.
With the top ten scoring points going any further backwards in race one was not an option and getting a good haul of points was now a difficult task. But as ever Olli would take on the challenge head on and held position in ninth in the opening laps of the race. Olli rounded off a train fighting for second, but overtaking was difficult with the various high speed corners spreading the field out before the long start/finish straight would close everyone back in.
Olli was locked in a fight with two time Macau Grand Prix winner, Dan Ticktum and Zendeli. But throughout the field it became a stalemate race with the drivers spreading themselves out over the course of the thirty minutes. Towards the end of the race Olli would come under pressure from Raul Guzman, but would do enough to hold on and finish ninth.
It was a worrying sign for Olli who would once again line up ninth on the grid for race two. It made the start of the race even more key and was a sign that any safety car periods would have to be taken advantage of. However, Olli found himself delayed at the start of the race by a queue of cars on the inside all slowing up in the congestion of turn one allowing cars to pass him around the outside.
It dropped Olli to tenth by the end of lap one and with the top seven escaping Olli was now looking at an eighth-place finish at best. A third of the way into the race and things had now settled down, but not for the fight for second and it saw Olli beginning to close back in as he rounded off the train. Halfway into the race and a drive through penalty for David Schumacher would promote Olli to ninth.
But like race one Olli suffered a drop in pace at the end of the race and would fall to eleventh place giving him his first non-points finish of the season.
Olli would once again line up ninth in the third and final race of the weekend hoping to end the weekend with a strong result. Things got off to a good start with Olli moving up to eighth on the opening lap. Once there it was time to quickly hassle Ticktum, another driver who had suffered the consequences of a bad qualifying.
However, one small mistake immediately put Olli on the back foot, it had lost him the tow to Ticktum and left him vulnerable down the long start/finish straight which led to Olli dropping to tenth place. Now with the race settling down, a chance of recovery was very slim with no safety cars coming out either. It meant another frustrating result with Olli taking the last of the points available.
The result leaves Olli fifth in the championship with one round remaining at Monza next weekend. Olli’s chances of improving on his fifth place there are slim, but he can still add to his win and seven podiums this season and end on a high. In Olli’s first year out of F4 there has been many ups and downs, but there is lessons being learnt all the time which will only make him a stronger driver for 2020.
Olli Caldwell: “It was a difficult weekend as we didn’t have the easiest start in practice and qualifying. Starting a bit at the back, this weekend seemed pretty difficult for everybody to recover positions and unfortunately, I got stuck around the same spots where I qualified. We look now forward to Monza. We did a test there last week and we were strong. We aim to end the season on a high there, which I'm sure we will.”
Olli will return to the track next weekend for the final round of the season at Monza. Olli has happy memories at the circuit after taking two second place finishes and a third on his visit there last year with the Italian F4 Championship. He’ll be hoping to make more memories around the home of the Italian Grand Prix again next week.
2019 Teams Champions - Prema Powerteam
Leaving Mugello it was made official that the Prema Team had become the inaugural champions of the new Formula Regional European Championship. Along with his teammates, Frederik Vesti and Enzo Fittipaldi Olli had helped seal the title with one round to spare giving him something to celebrate after a difficult weekend.