It was a weekend that will never be forgotten by many but especially by Olli and his fantastic drive in the second ADAC F4 race of the weekend which saw the Prema Theodore Racing driver charge through from 8th on the grid to finish 2nd.
It was an inspiring performance after race one on Saturday saw Olli take an early trip to the pits to retire with crash damage.
However, the phrase ‘never give up’ was written all over the 16-year-old on Sunday, who would stand proud on the F1 podium with all his sponsors present and a team simply lost for words!
Before we delve more into the dramatic events of Sunday let’s rewind back to Saturday morning and qualifying which had the field facing challenging conditions.
Even at 10am there was a buzz around the circuit, it was a sell out weekend and the campsites had been full since Thursday, after all this was Hockenhiem and the first German GP for two years.
The first session started dry but as the cars arrived in the F1 pit lane it was reportedly raining on the back straight. Without firm information all four Prema drivers chose to go out on slicks but as they sat at the pit lane exit it started to rain heavier and as the fifteen minutes began to tick down the slicks had to be removed and the wets put on, after days and days of baking weather the rain turned the track greasy and this was proving difficult for some drivers. However Olli kept his cool where others didn’t and right in the nick of time crossed the line for his final flying lap with one second to spare allowing him to put in a strong lap leaving him 5th in the grid for race one.
The second qualifying session would see the track become dry right towards the end of the session and it became a real luck of the draw who would be rewarded with the easiest conditions. Luck wasn’t to be on Olli’s side on this occasion with him again crossing he line with two seconds to spare an incident at turn one caused a yellow flag depriving him of his best lap so he would settle for 8th place, not a bad result but not where he wanted to be when 60,000+ spectators would pour into Hockenheim during the day hoping to see one of their own take Grand Prix victory. And we all know what happened there…
Race one would take place on Saturday evening straight after the F1 drivers had qualified. It had been a long wait and Olli was keen to get going and hoping to repeat how he got the weekend started at Hockenheim back at round two with a podium. That all looked possible early on, Olli had a fantastic start which saw him fighting with Lawson straight away for 2nd but a minor mistake by the VAR driver in turn one caused Olli to lift and Zendeli the championship leader didn’t hesitate throwing caution to the wind he dived down the inside which then saw Olli go off track and caused him to lose not only grip but places for the remainder of the lap.
But with clean tyres came the resurgence on lap two with Olli showing off his overtaking skills at both turns four and six rapidly climbed back to 5th behind the blistering quick Jenzer car of Saucy in lap three. Not to be deterred and mindful that he needed to catch the front runners as quick as possible Olli sold an amazing dummy at the hairpin of T6 and after having made the Jenzer go wide Olli dived down the inside, however as good as the move was a mistake from Schumacher who was in 3rd meant he was cutting across the nose of both cars which unfortunately led to minor contact and would force Olli to retire the car. It was a devastating start to the weekend and with Olli back in 8th for race two, some feared his chance of a podium had gone.
Overnight Olli was able to put the first race to the back of his mind and stay fully focused on race two. As the huge crowds gathered for the fast-approaching Grand Prix Olli was comfortable and if anything, more fired up by the atmosphere. He had some of his sponsors here in support, the biggest bosses in the industry in the paddock and the team who have worked for him all season all watching on nervously. However, those nerves would be turned into excitement by the MSA Academy member who was not willing to settle for anything other than a podium and was going to do whatever it took to get there!
As the lights went out Olli made a brilliant start going straight up into 6th place and was immediately involved in a squabble for 2nd - 5th which had everyone on the edge of their seats. Lap after lap there was change at the front and this culminated into a dramatic fight from the exit of turn three into the hairpin at T6, where all the drama’s combined into some fantastic moves from Olli which then saw him go up to 2nd as he went around the outside of four cars including those of Schumacher and teammates Doohan and Fittipaldi and he did so just in time as the safety car was deployed immediately after.
At the restart Olli went straight after the leader Zendelli doing everything he could do get the win.
However, behind there was also his teammate, Fittipaldi, to keep an eye on. The Brazilian was keeping Olli honest.
The constant wheel to wheel tussle between the Prema’s once again allowed Zendeli had build himself a lead and although Olli was pushing as hard as he could not close the gap that hovered at around two seconds.
Come the end of the race the hard work had paid off and although it wouldn’t be the top step for Olli a 2nd place felt just as good given what had happened in race one. To pull off such a performance on the stage he was on was truly admirable and there’s no doubt the name ‘Olli Caldwell’ will roll off the tongue of Motorsport enthusiasts a lot easier than it did before!
For some the emotions were hard to keep in, Olli had achieved a brilliant result and for his sponsors and supporters who had made the trip to Germany he had turned it into a weekend they’ll never forget. For the team, it was their best result of the weekend and for Olli it moves him up to 6th in the championship just 10 points off 4th.
Olli Caldwell: “"I am very, very satisfied. We started the race from eighth, so the runner-up spot is great. It was fantastic competing in front of such an impressive backdrop and all the Formula 1 fans. There is always room for improvement; we came second and didn't win, so we could have done even better still. But at the end of the day, we leave here on a positive note."
Like the true racer he is Olli can still see the room for improvement and looked hugely comfortable in an atmosphere that would have seen many crumble. The future is certainly bright, if it wasn’t already!
The celebrations will unfortunately only be short lived with Olli back in the seat this weekend at Imola for round five of the Italian F4 Championship where Olli is currently sitting 3rdin the points standings.