It was a dream weekend for Olli Caldwell at Vallelunga as he went unbeaten dominating every session from start to finish. Having just received the news that he was a nominee for this year’s McLaren Autosport BRDC Award (MABA), Olli took pole position for all three races before leading every race from start to finish. It was the perfect way to consolidate himself as a MABA nominee whilst bringing himself back into contention for the championship with just one more round remaining next month.
After a lengthy summer break, and a chance to catch up on some well earnt rest, the time had finally come for Olli to jump back in the seat to begin the final chapter of his 2018 season. Up first would be the penultimate round of the Italian F4 Championship at Vallelunga. The 2.5-mile circuit provides a particularly tricky second half of the lap and is where Olli began his brief stint in the season last year.
Heading into the weekend Olli was sitting 3rd in the standings but after a tricky couple of rounds he had fallen back from the top two in terms of points. Rounds two and three at Paul Ricard and Monza saw Olli take a win and four further podiums in just six races which had him right in contention for the overall title. However, the Brit would need something special to get back to that point now.
Olli got the weekend off to a brilliant start with 2nd place in Free Practice one putting him immediately in the running as one of the favourites for the weekend. That was followed off with a strong 5th place in the second session to close off a successful Friday practice.
Moving into Qualifying Practice Olli was out to get his weekend off to a good start and things couldn’t have gone any better with the Prema Theodore Racing driver taking the fastest lap in both sessions. Being quickest in both would mean Olli would start from pole position in all three races! It was an achievement that had only been replicated once this season and was Olli’s second pole position.
It wasn’t long before we were into the first race and after a perfect start Olli quickly settled into the lead opening an immediate gap to break the tow on the first lap. However, with a couple of incidents further back in the field the safety car was brought out presenting Olli’s first challenge of the race. Just like his initial start Olli made the perfect restart and left his teammate, Fittipaldi, to deal with the rest of the field on the long run down to the first big breaking zone at turn four.
As the chasing pack battled there was drama just corners later with the top two in the championship coming together leaving Lorandi out of the race and Fittipaldi down the field. It also left Olli with a huge advantage but the safety car was once again deployed which would put big pressure on Olli once again. For the second time in the race Olli nailed the restart and opened a comfortable gap with less than ten minutes now remaining.
Just like he had done all race Olli didn’t put a foot wrong and in less than ten minutes he gained 3.6 seconds to take his second win of the season in convincing fashion! It was a perfect start to the weekend and considering he would start races two and three from the front of the field he was going to be hard to beat over the rest of the weekend.
Race two would take place on Sunday morning in slightly foggy and cooler conditions to race one which would have played on some driver’s minds. For Olli, the only difference was the driver following him at the end of the opening lap as he made another perfect start to open a gap just shy of one second. Despite the fact there was not much battling going on behind Olli was still comfortably quickest on circuit as he continuously pumped in fastest laps.
There was a response from Ptacek behind in the middles phases of the race but Olli was able to manage the gap at one second. As the race moved into the final ten minutes the consistent pace of Olli became too hard to deal with for the rest of the field and he drove away to win the race by 3.2 seconds! It was another fine performance and the aim of becoming just the second driver in history to take a triple win was becoming a realistic target.
Moving into the final race of the weekend there was an element of pressure bearing over Olli. Most now expected the young 16-year-old to go on and take a comfortable victory to live out the ultimate goal of winning all three races. However, any signs of nerves were immediately put to bed after settling straight into the lead and pulling away from the field with the company of Ptacek.
Although Olli was clear from the pack having to deal with the close attentions of Ptacek was a new challenge for the weekend but although the Czech driver could stay close to Olli he was not quite able to pass. Just like he had done in the first two races Olli was also continuing to set the fastest laps which was helping him just edge away.
The final ten laps would see Ptacek close the gap to around half a second but Olli dealt with the pressure in the best possible fashion making absolutely no mistakes. That would see him go on to take yet another lights to flag victory, his third of the weekend and fourth of the season! It was an astonishing achievement; one that Olli will never forget and brings him to within 40 points of the championship lead. It’s a huge turn around from post Imola and sees Olli with an outside shot of moving forward in the championship with three more race victories at Mugello still up for grabs.
On the flip side Olli is now over 60 points clear from 4th in the championship so will only be looking ahead of him when the season finishes at the end of October. It is perhaps Olli’s best weekend in his racing career to date with all the above to add to the fact he is now a deserved nominee for this year’s prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award.
Olli Caldwell: “This was the perfect weekend. Triple Pole, plus triple win. You can’t get any better than this. Thank you to everyone at PREMA Theodore Racing for making it possible. Looking forward to Mugello and Hockenheim to achieve more points and hopefully podiums!”
Olli will be back on track this weekend as the ADAC F4 season comes to a close at Hockenheim. Having already visited the circuit twice this year, which included supporting the German Grand Prix, Olli is hopeful of a good result having already taken two podiums at Hockenheim this season. Championship wise Olli is currently in a fight for 5th overall which would be a brilliant result on his debut season despite the luck he has suffered at times.