Nestled next to the Winter Olympic park, sits the Sochi Autodrom – a 5.848km circuit which is one of the longest on the FIA Formula 3 calendar. The tricky walled track offers minimal room for error and some interesting overtaking points. With the original season finale rescheduled from racing in America to this weekend’s battle in Russia, the entire field were equally on the back foot having had specific tyre compounds formulated for racing at Circuit of the Americas. But with a championship to seal and every race offering a unique opportunity, the FIA Formula 3 grid were poised for a thrilling final all-out battle for championship points. They didn’t have long to wait with heavy rain forecast for Saturday morning, it was decided to rearrange proceedings to allow for a race on Friday afternoon.
With a quick turn around between qualifying and then the opening race, the schedule change meant it was a real roll of the dice for the team with car set-up and strategy calls. Never one to be deterred, Olli was eager to get out on track and battle with his rivals.
Ready for the challenge ahead, Olli lined up in 15th on the grid for race one and stormed off the line, eying up his chances to make up positions. But with wet races having been on the cards, the late change to racing in drier conditions meant he was on the back foot, as the balance was not ideal for the temperament of a dry weather battle. Despite the hinderance, Olli grappled hard to finish 17th and was confident he could fight back in the remaining races.
"We really struggled with setup today, trying to put the car together for what was set to be two wet races in the dry, then finding out we had the race today, unfortunately really hurt us.
It's tough to take, on the final weekend of what's been a positive year, but we're ready for tomorrow and will keep fighting to the last lap.”
As the weather arrived on Saturday morning it was clear the decision to move Race 1 had been the right one, as a deluge of rain stopped any track action until later in the day, near flooding the support paddock in the process. Unfortunately for Olli, the delay resulted in Race 2 being cancelled, which called time on any chances that he had to seal third place in the championship standings due to the reduced amount of points up for grabs. Despite the misfortune, the resolute Brit turned his focus on one final push in the final race on Sunday morning, he knew he had an opportunity to at least finish the season on a high.
One last push
Firing from P15 for Sunday’s feature race with a dry track and nothing to loose, Olli put his head down and set about battling his way forward, determined on making his way through to the points. Immediately the Prema driver found himself in the thick of the action in what turned out to be a frenetic and exciting race. With an incident happening just ahead of him, he was forced to take avoiding action and run wide but managed to keep it under control. Going wheel-to-wheel in the opening lap with his teammate Leclerc, the pair relentlessly fought it out which saw them continue to trade places as the lap continued. Despite dropping to 18th place following some off-track skirmishes, the 19-year-old made light work of his rivals and began to fight his way back through the pack.
Working his way back through to 15th on the road, he managed to capitalise on others misfortune and climb to have points in his sights. With his experience, talent and tyre management on his side, it was a last lap lunge that sealed 10th place at the line and a points finish to seal his 2021 campaign.
In a season that saw Olli Caldwell celebrate his maiden victory in FIA Formula 3 and score a total of 4 podiums, whilst showcasing his fortitude to battle back from some difficult results. The British driver finished 8th place in the standings.
Reflecting on a season of triumph and tribulations Olli said:
“Wasn’t the best final round, but I really enjoyed in the final race as I was fighting through the pack to P10, there was plenty of overtaking which was fun!
Disappointing to end the season in this way, as we had a good start to the season. So without the issues we had we were consistently finishing in the top three, to then go to fighting to stay in the top 10, so it’s hard when the causes were out of my hands really. Thanks to all the guys at Prema for all their hard work over the season.”