Back in action on the streets of Baku, Olli Caldwell fought through a troublesome weekend where despite battling well, the luck just didn’t go his way.
Swapping the streets of Monaco for those of Azerbaijan, the Baku City Circuit has played host to some of the most thrilling Formula 2 races in recent history. Combining a long high-speed straight with a number of sharp 90˚ turns, along with a tight narrow section that powers through a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It provides a unique challenge for the drivers and a thrilling race for local spectators who are treated to racing action just below their balconies.
First taste of Baku
Taking to the track on Friday morning, the track that sits just a few kilometres away from the Caspian Sea produced blustery conditions for Free Practice. With the wind blowing and dust kicking up, it added another challenge for Olli, as he had his first taste of threading through the Baku streets.
In what proved to be a start-stop session with a number of red flags due to cars colliding with the walls, Olli set his focus on keeping his own laps clean and gathering as much data as possible.
Later on Friday, Qualifying repeated much the same as Free Practice with lap times getting cut short by red flag periods. However it became clear that the tow down the long straight provided a clear benefit to any drivers who were able to gain one, by following another car who would punch a hole in the air ahead and limit the drag to their own car behind. Unfortunately for Olli, despite posting some rapid laps, the luck of red flags didn’t fall his way as other drivers were able to improve with more advantageous track time.
Turning one year older on Saturday, Olli was ready and raring to go as he took to the track for the Sprint Race. Firing from the back, the 20-year-old was hungry to fight forward when the lights went out.
Making up places, the resolute racer fought his way through to run P18 as the race ran pretty uneventfully in the opening stages. Taking advantage of his rapid speed he began to gain on the cars ahead as he powered down the 2.2km high-speed straight. Picking off Nissany and Hughes to boost himself to P16 just as the safety car with just 6 laps left to run.
Primed to charge at the restart, Olli held his position ready to pounce when the pack began to speed away. Unfortunately a slight misjudgement of Bolukbasi intentions ahead, Olli ran into the back of his rival and broke his front wing. With race control judging that it was merely a racing incident, with neither party wholly at fault, Olli peeled into the pits to replace the damaged wing. Unfortunately returning to the track a lap down, despite further drama unfolding in the race he was classified in 19th place, but was the 15th car still running at the flag.
“It’s disappointing that it didn’t quite go our way today, but I can be confident in where we were running until the restart. It’s not the result I wanted on my birthday, but it is what it is. I’m sure we can come back fighting tomorrow.”
Nowhere to go
Bright and early on Sunday morning, the grid lined up for the Feature Race. Almost immediately as the lights went out, the Alpine Academy driver made up ground as the pack stormed through the opening lap. Despite taking the wiser outside line, Cordeel speared him against the wall and heartbreakingly ended his race before it truly began. With the other car deemed wholly at fault for the incident, Olli shook off the disappointment and vowed to bounce back at his home race in a few weeks time.
“Unfortunately I had nowhere to go as Cordeel came crashing into me. I had hoped for a better day today as I’ve enjoyed this track, it’s fun and quite challenging to drive. We need to see areas that we can improve on, both in qualifying and the races. Then we’re off to Silverstone, where I’m looking forward to racing in front of the home crowd.”
Later this week, Olli Caldwell gets the chance to realise a childhood dream as he will take to the track in the A521 Alpine Formula 1 car for the first time. Taking part in a test day with Alpine F1 Team at Silverstone as part of his Alpine Academy programme.
The next event of the FIA Formula 2 Championship roars into action as part of the British Grand Prix weekend on the 1–3rd July.