Following a long summer break of training, Olli Caldwell was back on track at Zandvoort this weekend with renewed vigour to build on his growing form in the FIA Formula 2 season. Fighting back from disappointment in the opening race, the 20-year-old driver ended his trip to Zandvoort with a haul of points in hand.
Set just a few miles from the bustling city of Amsterdam, nestled in the rolling sand dunes of Zandvoort, the 4.3KM circuit is a rollercoaster of steep banking along with a series of undulating twists and turns with little chance for overtaking. Having had a taste of the circuit last year in Formula 3 machinery, Olli was raring to get back out on track and put his experience into practice commenting:
“You can really utilise a lot of the banking in Turn 3, so that’s the biggest area where you can gain a lot of time. It’s a very steep part of the track which helps the car stop and rotate well, so it’s about how far are you willing to push without going off the track.”
Ready and raring to go
Racking up 16 laps in Free Practice on Friday morning, Olli went into qualifying with a focus on extracting as much as he could out of the car. However with track temperature reaching midday heat, managing tyres was going to be a challenge for the F2 pack. With a number of red flags interrupting action, Olli extracted the most out of his Campos machinery but unfortunately the optimum speed just seemed out of reach and he finished the session P19 lining up 2 spaces higher than his teammate.
“I feel like I maximised the car, but unfortunately the speed wasn’t there for us. We’ll see what we can pull out of the races”
A tough start
In front of grandstands filled with Dutch fans, Olli took to the grid for Saturday’s sprint race with confidence he could make up spots at the start. Firing off the line he immediately made good on his aim and climbed as high as P15 as the pack swept through their opening lap. But it soon became apparent that his brakes were not performing, as a lock-up into Turn 1 forced him to skate right through the gravel trap and tap the wall.
Despite being able to return to the track, he was eventually forced to retire a few laps later due to a burning smell within the car. Undeterred by this setback, Olli renewed his focus for the feature race with the aim of trying to clinch points for his troubles.
Luck on his side
The Alpine Academy driver certainly had his work cut out for him as lights went out for Sunday’s Feature Race, but with the chance of safety car playing into his hands, Olli opted for the earlier pit stop with hopes of carving through some places in the race.
Pressuring his rivals from the first turn of a wheel, he challenged into each corner of the opening lap of the 4.3KM track, until an incident called short his charge with a red flag for barrier repair. Despite losing out on a few spots at the restart he was back up to P16 by Lap 8, keeping his tyres under control as the pit stop window opened. Re-emerging from his own pit stop on Lap 12, further safety car incidents meant that luck was on his side, as it soon became clear that the alternate strategy was not going to play out for his rivals.
In a dramatic restart for those further up the pack which immediately called for another safety car, Olli managed to avoid the drama and chaos to sweep his way through to P16 on the road. Eager to clinch points, the 20-year-old held off any charge from behind to keep his position when racing finally resumed to a timed finish. Shuffling out to run P9 once all the pit stops had been served, it was looking promising for the young British driver but with 10 minutes left on the clock, it was going to be a thrilling end. Expertly holding off all advances from Daruvala as the minutes counted down, he crossed the line to score his second haul of points of the season having climbed 10 places to finish 9th. Following a post-race penalty for Beckmann, Olli was promoted to 8th in the final race classification.
“I’m really glad to have scored points this weekend, we had good race pace but there weren’t many chances to overtake at a track like this. We were lucky the strategy worked out for us and it’s a good place to be after retiring from the sprint race yesterday.“
In just a few days time, Olli Caldwell will be back on track when FIA Formula 2 returns to onza, where he will look to continue his point-scoring form at the renowned Temple of Speed.