Olli Caldwell signed off his 2021 racing season at the FIA Formula 2 finale this weekend. Taking to the track for the second time behind the wheel of the higher-powered Tattus machine, he gained a heap of experience as he eyes up a full season campaign in the new year.
Joining the support paddock for Formula 1 once again, where anticipation of the season finale reached a scorching level comparable to that of the hot desert sun. Olli Caldwell was poised for his second outing where he got to grips with the step up into Formula 2 machinery.
Standing at 5.281KM the Yas Marina Circuit is the second shortest track on the 2021 Formula 2 calendar, with additional tweaks and changes made to improve overtaking opportunities and creating faster flowing sections. As no stranger to the track having taken victories there earlier in his junior career, Olli was keen to get going and continue his development with the car.
Keeping a clean session throughout practice and qualifying, attention turned to the race where the battles turned wheel-to-wheel rather than on the timing screen. Lining up in 19th on the grid on Saturday morning, the British driver immediately got his elbows out to vie for position when the lights went out. Keeping his rivals in his sights, he gained pace on Hughes throughout the first half of the race. As the laps ticked down, seeing his opportunity he shot for the overtake as the pair reached Turn 6. But with Hughes taking a sharper turn to defend the position, Olli was left with nowhere to go and the pair unfortunately collided. With him trying to avoid contact, the stewards deemed neither driver wholly responsible for the racing incident. Olli headed into the pits for a new front wing and returned to the track, taking fastest lap honours to appease his disappointment.
Back on track under the floodlights on Saturday evening, the 19-year-old rookie was ready to push forward in Race 2. Keeping his nose clean throughout the opening lap, he settled in and focused on pushing for every opportunity that came his way. By Lap 4 he found Deledda getting the benefit of slipstream to power past him, never one to give up a position lightly. Olli immediately reversed the advantage and aimed his car for the overtake and they flew into the sweeping corner of Turn 9. With plenty of room available for the two cars, he edged ahead slightly. But Deledda didn’t leave enough room and it caused the pair to go spinning off into the large run off. Whilst his rival was given a penalty for the incident, Olli put his head down and continued the race. Crossing the line in 15th following a particularly strong overtake in the final stages.
Strategy leads to a strong finish
With previous races proving the learning curve is especially steep between F3 and F2, with lessons learned on every lap Olli had every confidence that he could finish strong in the final race of the weekend.
Wisely keeping himself out of the pinch at the first corner, Olli ran at the back of the pack with eyes firmly focused on pushing forward. But with cars at the front causing the entrance of a safety car, his charge was neutralised for the first few opening laps. However with pace on his side he immediately took positions at the restart to really get his race underway.
As the Formula 2 feature race offers drivers their first taste of pit stop strategy in single-seater racing, the determined young Brit was eager to learn all he could from the challenge. Opting for the alternate strategy to those leading, Olli was on the harder tyre from the race start which saw him going deeper into the 33 lap race before his pit stop. Running consistently where others faltered and looking after his tyres perfectly, he was circling as high as 4th place by the time he peeled off into the pits.
His hard work paid off as returned to the track within a second of the car ahead and a 30s gap to the chasing car when the order shuffled out. Finishing in 18th place with a clean race and his first racing pit stop under his belt, Olli Caldwell ended the weekend with a renewed sense of hunger as he looks ahead to 2022.
Reflecting on the weekend Olli commented: “The results weren’t what I wanted, but these two last rounds were for learning ahead of what I hope to be a full 2022 campaign. I made mistakes that I’ve learned from and I know areas I need to improve upon. So after some rest and plenty of training over the winter, I’ll be more than ready to hit the ground running in 2022.”