It may not have been the story book ending for Olli at Mugello, but he certainly put in an inspired performance as he battled to become the Italian F4 champion. Up against Enzo Fittipaldi and Leonardo Lorandi, Olli would have had both drivers very nervous after his 2nd place on Saturday’s opening race but in traitorous conditions on Sunday a 4th and 3rd place was not enough for the Prema Theodore Racing driver to take the overall title. It would however be a championship podium in Olli’s first full season in single seaters and he would make history becoming the first ever driver in the championships history to score points in all 21 races! Now that’s what you call consistency!
Heading into the weekend Olli lay 32 points behind his teammate Fittipaldi and 41 points behind the championship leader Lorandi. To win the title from that far back was going to be a big ask, but Olli’s consistency, along with four wins and several podiums, meant he could take a nothing to lose approach into the event. He could even afford to drop a round and still be right in contention.
But to win, podiums at the very least would be required and Olli got off to a great start taking 5th and 2nd in qualifying. This meant he’d start Saturday’s race one from the third row with his championship rivals forming the inside rows ahead. Straight off the line Olli was getting stuck in moving up to 4th at turn one which had kept his championship rivals at arm’s length.
The tension on the pit wall was visible through the live stream as the race went on and as Olli kept the pressure on Lorandi and Fittipaldi the pair eventually tangled leaving Fittipaldi in the wall and Lorandi tumbling down the order. That saw Olli climb up to 2nd but by the time he was there Petecof was down the road. Despite leaving the 3rd place battle miles behind and closing in on Petecof Olli would settle for 2nd place. It was his tenth podium of the season and with disaster results for Lorandi and Fittipaldi it had closed the gap to the championship leader to just twelve points making it game on for races two and three on Sunday!
On arrival to the track on Sunday the drivers were greeted by horrendous conditions and there were questions about whether the race should even take place. Visibility was minimal and non-existent in places and even following the safety car around was a struggle for some. It took over thirteen minutes before race control decided it was safe enough to go racing and starting from 2nd Olli would be one of the first to negotiate the track at full speed whilst battling for a championship with Fittipaldi just ahead.
It took just over a corner before there was a huge pile up further down the field which brought out the red flags and had answered all concerns around the race. However, after a lengthy clean up operation the race would restart which was good news for Olli given the first start had not gone to plan for him at all. The race would start behind the safety car with drivers still spinning behind it and the clock ticking.
With five minutes remaining the race would final get going and after having to defend from Lorandi at turn one Fittipaldi had managed to break away. Under a lot of pressure Olli lost places to Lorandi and Petecof and with less than two minutes remaining the last lap board was quickly out and Olli would finish the race in 4th place.
The result had put Olli slightly further back in the championship battle but it didn’t mean winning the title was an impossibility. It did mean it was a long shot, but even if Olli wasn’t to win the title the final race of the season could see him create history. That record would be finishing inside the points in every single race of the season and a top ten finish would see that record sealed, an astonishing achievement given the size of the field and calendar.
Olli would start the last race in third place and with conditions barely improving it would once again be a start behind the safety car. After almost ten minutes it was time to go green and battling with teammates Petecof and Fittipaldi, the trio were almost three wide into turn one!
The battle would unfortunately be short lived before the safety car was back out to clear up another incident and it was looking like any actual racing would be minimal. Now into the second half of the race and the drivers were released once again with Olli holding onto 3rd through turn one.
The top three spread themselves out in the tricky conditions and as predicted the safety car was needed once again this time with ten minutes remaining. With conditions only worsening rather than improving race control eventually decided to finish the race behind the safety car giving the drivers only had around five minutes of actual racing.
It also gave Olli 3rd place and yet another podium along with his record achievement of a one hundred percent points finishing record in 21 races! With Fittipaldi and Lorandi both keeping a clean pair of heels Olli would 3rd in the championship along with helping Prema Theodore Racing to comfortably wrap up the team’s championship.
With better conditions on Sunday the result could have been very different but overall 3rd place for Olli was a fantastic result. Not many British drivers have had success in the foreign F4 championships, in all honesty Olli is probably one of the first which is a credit to how well he has driven against tough opposition. At times, he has had little to no experience at circuits on the calendar and has had to learn quickly and has been down on overall experience given this is first full season in single seaters!
Olli Caldwell: “It's been an amazing journey in the Italian F4 championship this year and at the end of it we have finished 3rd in the championship along with being crowned Team Champions!”
“We came into the weekend hoping to win the title after what has been an amazing season, but I'd like to congratulate my teammate Enzo Fittipaldi who took the drivers championship in the last race of the year!”
“I'm very proud to be on the championship podium and to be a part of this amazing team! Of course this season wouldn't have been possible without a lot of people and I'd like to thank the whole team all my sponsors and my family and friends and everyone who has supported me online this year!”
“I couldn't have got this result without all of your support and I hope this is just another successful chapter in my Motorsport career. See you in 2019!”
It’s a fantastic result which has seen him recognised by Motorsport UK, Autosport, Motorsport Media and the ACI along with several other organisations and media outlets. The experience gained from this season will only help Olli to get even better results in the future.
There’s no doubt 2019 is going to be a big year for Olli Caldwell!