Olli Caldwell’s debut at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya unfortunately did not quite work out how he would have hoped. Despite promising pace, he found himself an innocent victim in an incident in race one, but fought hard to recoup healthy points in races two and three where he finished a strong fourth place. Overall the weekend did not match up to Olli’s high standards, but he still sits fifth in the championship just 32 points behind third place with two rounds remaining.
This was the second round of the season where Olli would be making his debut at a circuit. The first at Hungaroring could not have gone much better with Olli on the podium in all three races. He would be aiming to do the same here, although that task would be made slightly harder with the introduction of two time Macau Grand Prix winner, Dan Ticktum.
Olli looked strong in Friday’s practice, but qualifying on Saturday morning would take place in wet conditions. With practice being in dry conditions Olli was going into the session blind and had just fifteen minutes to adjust. But he did quickly and finished fourth, fifth and fifth giving him good grid positions for the weekend.
Conditions were still mixed for the first race with the track particularly slippery off the racing line. Unfortunately for Olli that is where he would be starting and like all the other drivers on that side of the track he struggled for traction off the line. With all drivers on slicks it only exaggerated the problem and it saw Olli would drop back at the start of the race to eighth place.
But he immediately got on the front foot and began the fight back picking off Igor Fraga first before quickly closing down Raul Guzman. On lap four Olli made his move on the Mexican with Sophia Florsch next on the list. On a track that is difficult to overtake on getting past the Van Amersfoort Racing driver proved difficult but Olli stayed patient and his opportunity came on lap twelve.
With Konsta Lappalainen ahead of Florsch struggling a queue started to form and Olli was passed by Ticktum into turn ten, but this would prove to work in his favour. Up ahead Lappalainen and Florsch came together at turn eleven and first to arrive at the scene was Ticktum who had nowhere to go but off the circuit. Olli quickly reacted and avoided all three cars helping himself to fourth.
The incident would bring out the safety car putting Olli right in contention to get a podium finish. There would be just two laps remaining when the race got back underway and Olli immediately challenged teammate Enzo Fittipaldi. He forced the Brazilian into a mistake but as Fittipaldi re-joined the circuit he came right into the path of Olli forcing him off the circuit and into the gravel.
The incident would drop Olli to seventh with no opportunity to make any positions back, it ended a brilliant recovery drive where Olli looked almost certain to take a podium finish. At the business end of the season it lost Olli valuable points in his challenge for third in the championship.
Conditions were dry for race two which would make overtaking all the more difficult, but a good start saw Olli move up to fourth going into turn one. He then began to pile the pressure on Ticktum, whilst trying to hold off championship leader Frederik Vesti at the same time. A driver of Ticktum’s calibre is hard to break down though and a bad run out of the chicane on lap eleven was enough to allow Vesti passed into turn one.
During the final ten minutes it was clear Olli was suffering a drop in pace and it saw Fraga come passed. Olli would eventually finish sixth, although he would have to get his elbows out to do so after a battle with Guzman. It seemed like another missed opportunity for Olli and there was certainly work to do overnight.
Olli made another good start in race three passing teammate Vesti into turn one. He then found himself under immediate pressure from Vesti and did well to hold on for a lap, before Vesti eventually passed him back. It wasn’t the worst thing with Olli now having someone to follow and work with the catch the lead group.
Olli seemed to struggle slightly for pace in the early stages, but that would quickly change and Olli was soon back with the lead quartet having gapped the rest of the field. Olli’s hard work would be rewarded after a mistake from Vesti moved him up to fourth place. In doing so a gap of almost two seconds had now opened up to the leaders.
Olli did his best to close back in and got within one second of a podium finish before eventually settling for fourth place. It would be his best result of the weekend and give him a good haul of points to round off what had been a mixed weekend for the Prema driver.
Olli Caldwell: "Mixed emotions this weekend. We had a good qualifying putting me up the front for all three races. However, while fighting for P2 in race one I was taken off and struggled for pace in Race 2. Race 3 was better finishing 4th and getting on the rookie podium. Now we focus on the last two weekends on maximising points.”
Next for Olli will be Mugello, he capped off his Italian F4 campaign strongly there last year with two podium finishes. In the final six races Olli will be aiming for nothing less than podiums as he continues his challenge to take third in the championship.