Just a few short days break after Silverstone and the F2 grid were back in action for Round 8 of the 2022 Championship. Set high in the Styrian hills, the 4.318km Spielberg track serves up a series of fast corners and undulating straights. With DRS opening up overtaking opportunities, but track limits heavily enforced, it certainly offered a tricky challenge for the field of drivers.
Olli showcased his strong pace from the off by setting some rapid laps in Free Practice on Friday morning ahead of qualifying. With confidence in the car beneath him, Olli set about extracting everything from his Campos machine when qualifying got underway. After a short lull in proceedings the pack filed back out for their final runs, with many drivers having their lap times deleted due to exceeding track limits it was anyone’s game for threading the thin line of a valid fast lap. Punching in a strong lap in the final minutes of the session, Olli did enough to place P9. However was deemed to have all 4 wheels narrowly cross the white line at the edge of the track and his fastest time was deleted. Despite the disappointment, Olli set his focus on making the most of his pace in the races.
Sprint Race Struggles
Lining up towards the back of the Sprint grid on Saturday, Olli planned to forge his way forward when the lights went out. Making good almost immediately, the British racer climbed his way up to be running in 16th place in the opening laps.
Getting into the groove, Olli began to put pressure on Williams whilst managing the charge from his teammate Merhi behind. Holding his own as the race ran on, before Nissany had the benefit of DRS to find his way by just before the Virtual Safety Car was called for a stricken car. It was at that point that Olli began to struggle with the tyres and was unfortunately at a disadvantage to those cars behind as the race restarted.
Settling into the race and holding place as best he could with 10 laps left to run, he was deemed to have ran wide and was one of four drivers handed a 5 second time penalty for track limits. Despite this disappointment, Olli scored 17th place on the road.
Powering to the Points
With rain soaking the track overnight, there was a strategic gamble to be made ahead of the Feature Race on Sunday morning. Starting at the back of the grid, Olli had nothing to lose and opted to bold on the slick tyres, taking the chance on the drying track whilst those ahead had chosen the wet weather tyre.
It was clear from the first lap that the gamble had paid off, with a mandatory pit stop in play, it gave Olli the opportunity to really fight his way through the field. Climbing his way from 22nd on the grid to P16 in the opening lap, before the safety car was called. Ready to pounce at the restart, he immediately began picking off his rivals and climbing a number of positions in each lap.
Running as high as 6th place, the 20-year-old rookie hooked into a battle with Lawson and Hughes, holding his own and maintaining his position as the pit stops began by Lap 10. Opting to go slightly longer, he pitted from P3 on the road and the strategy allowed him to remerge in 6th place. However battling with the slightly colder tyres to those around him he focused on picking his battles wisely and keeping his nose clean.
Managing his position and running a clean race, the Alpine Academy driver crossed the line in 11th, but with his rivals falling foul to time penalties his efforts were rewarded with a 6th place finish and his first FIA Formula 2 points.
Scoring 8 points overall, Olli Caldwell turns his focus to continuing his momentum at Paul Ricard in 2 weeks time:
"I'm really happy to earn my first points in Formula 2. We took a gamble with the tyre strategy and it definitely paid off this time. Coming from the back to finish P6 feels amazing and shows we still have pace. The team did a great job today and I'm glad I could bring home such a good result. I'll be working to continue this momentum next time out"