It was a difficult weekend for Olli Caldwell as the Formula Regional European Championship headed to the Red Bull Ring for round four of the season. Coming off the back of a triple podium finish at the Hungaroring, Olli had boosted himself up to third in the championship. He seemed to be the one to watch in Austria, but that would sadly not be the case with problems making it a weekend to forget for the Prema driver.
From the off there appeared to be issues for Olli who found himself out of position in Friday’s practice sessions with an eighth and eleventh place finish. It was an immediate knock for Olli’s confidence who had to find pace overnight with qualifying following on Saturday morning.
There were certain signs of improvement in qualifying with the Brit going on to finish ninth, sixth and fifth place! It was still not where he wanted to be, but it was a step in the right direction and with the Red Bull Ring being such a low downforce circuit, there was every chance for Olli to work his way through the field in the races.
Olli got off to a clean start to the race holding position around turn one before moving in to eighth at turn three. A brave move on the brakes around the outside at four now left him in seventh, with the field still nicely bunched together. As the first ten minutes ticked by the top four had escaped leaving Olli in the battle for fifth place.
However, it was clear the pace was still not quite there with Olli struggling and by the halfway stage he had lost touch with the pack ahead and was now under pressure in seventh. But just on queue a safety car was brought out giving Olli another chance to move forward in the final eleven minutes.
Despite a good restart, Olli was soon on the defensive and he would quickly drop to eighth place up at turn three which is where he would go on to finish. A difficult weekend seemed to be continuing but with a mixed forecast for Sunday, Olli remained positive that he could get some good results.
As the field lined up on the grid for race two there was light rain falling at parts of the circuit. It didn’t take long for drivers to get caught out and after a bad start to the race Olli was quickly back into position at turn three. The downhill turn four would see many caught out and with his teammates off Olli was up to fourth before pulling off a brave move around the outside at turn six.
The off for Olli’s teammates had been caused by contact by the race leader leaving him with a penalty to serve. It meant Olli was now fighting for the lead with Schumacher who lay just ahead! With no wet running at all over the weekend it was a case of who could adjust the quickest and Olli was showing huge confidence as he did yet another move around the outside at turn four to take the net race lead.
Shortly after going into second Olli was back down to third again and he all of a sudden had a huge dip in pace falling three seconds back from Schumacher. There were fears that a potential problem was arising given his early pace and sadly that was the case with Olli retiring the car from third on lap five after suffering a gearbox software failure. It had robbed Olli of a potential race win, something that would have been a huge boost going into the final race of the weekend.
Olli would start fifth for the last race and got off to a good start holding position at the start. With the problems from race two fixed Olli appeared the be setting much better pace and despite dropping to sixth it wasn’t long before he was the quickest driver on track bringing himself to the tail of the lead five.
Having brought Schumacher with him Olli had to defend whilst also attacking Guzman ahead who was also defending with Olli now desperate to get past the Mexican. Before long Schumacher had been replaced by Florsch and in what was a thrilling contest Olli was constantly finding himself both attacking and defending.
With ten minutes remaining the safety car was deployed resulting in just four minutes of racing at the end. The situation remained the same going into the final two laps with the field as close as ever. Olli had a slight gap to Florsch behind but a slow final sector put him on the back foot and led him to lose two places on the final lap. After a penalty for a driver ahead Olli would finish seventh overall.
Olli Caldwell: “There are not many positives to take away from this weekend. It has been tough and we had a few problems we’re still not quite sure about. The team is investigating them so I’m sure they are going to be fixed by the next race. Unfortunately, I had a gearbox failure in race two which was my best chance of a win. A tough weekend, but there are more to come and I can still get back up in the championship. I’m really looking forward to Imola as it’s a track I know well. I like it a lot and I think we’ll be pretty fast there.”
It was a disappointing end, to a very disappointing weekend and one Olli will need to quickly forget about and move on from. It’s something that racing drivers face at stages of their careers and it’s how you bounce back that is the most important thing. Although it is certainly no help for Olli’s season, he can learn a lot from how to deal with this experience which could become useful at later stages of his career.
We now head into a summer break with the next round at Imola in six weeks time.