The 4.318km ribbon of tarmac which features a series of fast corners and undulation changes, is one of the shortest tracks on the calendar. With a picturesque back drop, the Austrian track poses itself as a high-speed, technical challenge, which Olli was more than ready to tackle.
Wasting no time at all in marking his intentions, Olli reigned supreme in Friday’s practice session, topping the time screens with promising pace. But with just 0.004s separating him from his rival, it was clear that the margins would be super tight as the weekend progressed.
In a chaotic qualifying session, the 30-strong field struggled to find space to put in a fast lap. With the action on track looking more like a race than one-lap speed runs. With the margins so tight and jostling for position, just 0.174s off pole position, Olli managed to score 8th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Starting P5 for Saturday’s reverse grid race, Olli had his eyes set on making the most of his opportunities to claim a strong points paying position and a view to challenge the front runners.
Launching off the grid, he immediately dispatched Leclerc to take P4. With crowds finally back at the track, the field certainly put on a show from start to finish, in a frenetic battle for the lead. Putting his head down, Olli’s strong pace meant he was well within the mix as he held off the charge from teammate Hauger behind. However eventually with the benefit of DRS, Hauger just managed to claim the position, but Olli made sure he was ready to pounce when the door opened. His opportunity came as he claimed P4 from pole sitter Sargeant. Managing to steer clear of trouble on Lap 21 when Nannini and Novalak came together, allowed Olli to slip by to take P2 on the road. Sweeping across the line, it was another strong race for the British driver as he claimed another podium and a tasty haul of points.
“My mindset was to maximise points, so it was important to push where I could without risking too much. The race was pretty chaotic, so it feels great to have finished up on the podium and get some really good points. I have plenty to learn from this race that I can take forward too.”
Despite receiving a post-race time penalty for track limits, he retained his second place finish.
More points in the bag
Back on track for Race 2, Olli had full confidence in his pace and ability, but with lessons learned he knew he had to manage tyres and the DRS advantage if he was to score good points. Despite an early safety car settling the pack down, Olli was ready to handle the restart. Moving his way up on Lap 9 he claimed P10 and a fastest lap for his efforts. But struggling with his tyres he had a fairly uneventful race, to cross the line and score some extra points with a P9 finish. Hungry for more, he looked ahead to get back in the mix in Sunday’s race.
Powering back to the Podium
From 8th on the grid, the British driver was more than ready to battle when the track came to life on Sunday morning. Getting his elbows out from the word go, he found a line round the outside, changing positions as they swept through the opening laps. But knowing the need for consistency, the Prema driver kept his nose clean as all settled down to run P8. Back making moves, by Lap 4 he soon found a way by Doohan for P7, before making the better of Martins’ mistake taking P6 for his own and turning his attention to pick off Crawford.
As Crawford ran wide, Olli was ready to seize his chance, but he wasn’t alone as Leclerc benefitted from the slipstream, the trio spectacularly went three wide. The crowd held their breath as they waited to see who had the nerve to hold it out. Timing his braking to perfection, Olli was the one to claim the position for himself. It wasn’t long until he powered past Novalak for 4th.
As the fight at the front hit fever pitch, the 19-year-old was fully engaged in the four way battle for the win. But just as the laps ticked down, the safety car was called, following a scary incident that saw teammate Leclerc almost collect Olli’s car as he helplessly got caught on the grass. Taking a much needed breather, Olli was soon on the radio exclaiming “that was close, that was close”, with the pace set and tyres ready, the final dash to the flag was looking to be exciting.
At the restart he was immediately piling the pressure on Smolyar, the podium tantalisingly close. Not wanting to get caught out, he wisely used the benefit of DRS, which released him to set fastest lap.
After one final twist of a Virtual Safety Car, one lap remained and the fight was back on. Never giving up and seeing his chance to fight with Hauger once again. Olli didn’t make it easy for him as he edged at every turn, but had to settle for 3rd place.
Sealing another strong finish for the Brit, Olli has full confidence in continuing his form, when racing continues in just over 3 weeks time.
“That was a really good race for me! I just gave it full send! We made quite a lot of changes in the night, I went over the data a lot with my engineer, and we made some changes to the car. For me, it felt great today and I think that showed on our pace. It was really fun.” He commented.
Olli Caldwell leaves Red Bull Ring with 70 points and sits 4th in the championship standings. FIA Formula 3 returns at the Hungarian Grand Prix on the 30th July–1st August.