In contrast to the rain-soaked affair last time out, Zandvoort was drenched in sunshine as the drivers got their first taste of the challenging track on Friday morning ahead of the qualifying session. Where Olli was eager to score a strong grid position.
Darting through the sweeping turns as the session got underway, Olli was confident in the pace of his Prema machine and looked to be ready to put in a strong run. However when he tried to deploy DRS, he was plagued by a technical problem that failed to give him the extra speed. Returning to the pits in an effort to rectify it, the Prema mechanics set to work as the remaining minutes ticked down. With one last ditch attempt to set a strong lap, Olli was unfortunately caught by yellow flags which sadly added to his troubles. Reflecting on a heart-wrenching session:
"Unfortunately, it was a terrible qualifying. DRS didn't work, so we missed out on a lot of track time. Because of that, the car was in the wrong position for the one lap we had at the end, and that hindered the pace. In the beginning, we were around P12 with no DRS, and we were super strong, but that issue ruined our session…”
Pushing back through the pack
Following his misfortune in qualifying, the British driver was eager to get back in the racing seat on Saturday morning. Starting in the thick of the action, Olli certainly wasted no time in getting down to work when the lights went out. Running wheel-to-wheel with his rivals, he fought his way through to P13 by Lap 8. With points in his sights he battled relentlessly to claim P10 at the chequered flag, no easy feat at a track that had been heralded as one that was hard for overtaking. His efforts further earned himself a strong start for the second race on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking of his race, Olli recapped on his points-attaining charge:
"We scored a good result at the end of race 1, recovering some points and a good starting position for race 2. I managed some late moves into turn 1 which was interesting and I also benefitted from mistakes from others with tyre degradation.”
Points on points
Despite such a difficult start to the weekend, Olli certainly didn’t let that affect his determination when racing began. Buoyed by his forward charge in Race 1, he was ready for the fight from third on the grid when the pack lined up for Race 2.
Narrowly losing a place at the start, Olli put his head down and wisely kept his nose clean, knowing the importance of scoring points. Soon enough it was clear he was struggling for balance in the car, but with his teammate Hauger chasing his tail, Olli wrestled against his car struggles to keep him at bay. The heat of race increased as DRS was enabled and treated the sell-out crowds to a sensational battle which began to unfold. With better balance and equal machinery, Hauger went wheel-to-wheel with Olli, the pair steaming through the tight banking with inches between them. Giving his all, the British driver came out of the skirmish ahead. Where despite initially struggling with understeer and losing the gap, he put the power down to maintain the position. With the safety car called, the pressure was alleviated for a few laps, but it didn’t last for long as racing soon resumed at the end of Lap 5. Storming full-speed down to Turn 1 at Tarzan, Olli hugged the inside line perfectly to hold off the chasing Prema behind him. This allowed him to inch forward to create a little breathing room as frenetic and action-packed race continued. Despite managing to hold off any advances with some superb defensive action, with the benefit of the tow, DRS and car balance on his side, Hauger slipped by as the race entered Lap 18.
With another safety car period bunching up the pack, Olli was keen to capitalise and charge forward to claim some good points. Initially losing places with nowhere to go, Olli managed to find a line that kept him out of trouble to gain them back once more. With Hauger getting caught up with a puncture, Olli claimed an extra place to finish in 6th. Taking a healthy haul of points was a hard-earned reward for a tricky race.
“Race 2 was difficult with the balance of the car. Unfortunately we didn't quite have the pace we thought we had from race 1 and the others found some pace too”
Onwards to Russia
As the final race got underway on Sunday, the frenetic pace and action of previous races made way for a much calmer affair. With much of the grid struggling to find a way by, Olli managed to be one of the few drivers to make up a place to finish P14.
With a good points haul from a frustrating weekend for the British driver, with plenty of confidence in the pace of the car and his own talent, Olli looks ahead to finish off his season by scoring as many points as possible to end his campaign on a high. Where following a calendar change moving the season finale from the USA over to Russia, he will be backing racing in just three weeks time.
Scoring points in two races at Zandvoort, Olli Caldwell currently sits seventh in the championship standings with 92 points and is determined to push his pace when racing concludes at the Sochi Autodrome on the 24th-26th September.