Olli Caldwell took to the streets of Monaco this weekend, making his racing debut at the principality. Gaining places in both races and steering clear of the tight barriers, the Alpine Academy driver managed to finish his rookie weekend with a clean run of race finishes.
Widely regarded as the jewel in the motorsport crown, the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most anticipated weekends in global motorsport. Offering up a truly unique challenge, the infamous streets feature narrow straights and tight, twisty turns. Allowing no room for error, it can trip up even the most experienced racers. Taking place as part of the support series, the Formula 2 paddock took to the streets for Round 5 of the 2022 championship.
With a slightly amended format due to the nature of racing in Monaco, Olli’s first taste of driving came when practice session got underway on Thursday afternoon. Running a clean session, Olli put in his first sighting laps and gained valuable experience ahead of qualifying.
To allow drivers an equal chance in qualifying, sessions are split into two groups based on odd and even race numbers. Taking part in the second session on Friday afternoon, Olli’s sights were set on keeping his nose clean as he darted around the unforgiving ribbon of tarmac. Putting his visor down and adopting another level of focus, the 19-year-old racer managed to improve his time as the session played out.
However having completed a push lap with no way to let a faster car by as he ran through the tight opening sector, Olli was deemed to have impeded his rival and thus was one of a few drivers handed a grid drop penalty. Whilst unfortunate, the incident was one that are common for rookie drivers and experienced drivers alike. With a red flag calling the session short, he moved his attention to forging forward in the races.
“Monaco is a unique challenge, it’s totally unlike a street circuit like Jeddah, but just as unfair when flags come out. It's what it is and we will try to do what we can in the races.”
Lining up on the grid for the sprint race on Saturday afternoon, as the track offers little chance for overtaking, Olli set his focus on making the most of every opportunity when the lights went out. Caught out by having to taking avoiding action from a stalled car on the grid, he initially lost some ground as the pack ran into Saint Devote. But able to pick up pace and hold his ground where his rivals faltered, the Campos driver gave good chase.
With some strong race pace, he began to hound the back of Sato as the race reached the latter stages, until he suffered a hair-raising lock-up as he exited the tunnel into the Nouvelle Chicane. Able to keep the car under control, he got away with only lightly tagging the back of Sato’s car and avoiding any damage. Taking the flag in P15 was a strong comeback for the rookie.
“It’s hard to overtake here so we ended up in a train for most of the race. We also really struggled with the brakes in this race, but luckily we managed to keep out of trouble. Hopefully we can make up some places with pit stop strategy in the feature race.”
Consistency is Key
Back in action early on Sunday morning, even though rain had threatened on the forecast, skies were bright as the grid formed for the Feature Race.
Having suffered wheel spin off the line, Olli found himself with nothing to lose and places to gain as the pack made their first circuit through the streets. Making up 2 places where drivers ahead fell foul to incidents, he opted for the early pit stop strategy on Lap 10. From there with 30 laps left to run, the intrepid racer mounted the challenge to stretch his tyres to the end. Managing his pace and tyres perfectly, he crossed the line in P15 and scored another strong finish.
Although the field finished much as they started across both races, Olli managed to complete two clean runs and demonstrate some impressive pace.
“With no overtaking possibilities we tried to run long into the race in hopes of making up places. But unfortunately we suffered a slow stop and our tyres died off pretty fast after that. Overall our pace has been strong throughout the weekend, so I’m happy with what I achieved in my first time racing here in Monaco.”
From one street race to another, Olli Caldwell will be back in action when racing resumes at Baku on 10–12th June.