It was not a weekend that went entirely to plan for Olli Caldwell at Vallelunga, but despite the difficulties Olli continued his good form scoring a podium in race two. With the third race cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, Olli never quite got the chance to make it two and leaves Vallelunga with a good haul of points.
Back at a track where Olli has gone extremely well in the past, the Prema driver was looking to keep up that track record now in an F3 car. Things got off to a positive start with Olli setting some impressive times in practice. Finishing fourth in both sessions Olli was right on the pace and looked in a strong position to take more podiums to add to his win from round one.
Qualifying would throw up a mixed set of results for Olli after struggles in the first session left him down in ninth place. With conditions, far different from what the drivers were faced with on Friday it was always going to be a huge challenge and Olli never quite got a clean lap in leaving him with work to do in race one. Despite the result Olli and the team bounced back in the second session with a strong performance giving him a fourth and fifth places for Sunday’s races.
With the track dry for race one Olli knew he’d have the pace to potentially move forward but one thing that became clear was overtaking is very difficult around Vallelunga unlike Paul Ricard. After holding position at the start Olli got himself into eighth place five laps in and set off after Igor Fraga.
Despite pressuring the Brazilian overtaking became almost impossible with the track simply not suiting the cars with close racing in dry conditions. Eventually Olli would have to settle for position and take the points knowing he had good grids for tomorrow’s races and a good chance to get himself back on the podium.
Race two would start behind the safety car with a damp track that was quickly drying. Despite this the field would all go on wet tyres bar one, and with just over twenty minutes to go we finally got to go racing. As the race got underway Olli rounded off a lead quartet that were breaking away from the rest of the field.
As we reached the halfway point Olli had briefly dropped back from the lead trio, but he had decided to save his tyres whilst the top three continued to push very hard knowing that he would come strong at the end of the race. The tactics from Olli paid off in great fashion after he set the fastest lap approaching the final ten minutes.
Now flying Olli made his move on former race leader Isac Blomqvist on lap ten after a brilliant exit from the last corner saw him breeze past the Finn and set off after his two teammates ahead. Olli was taking huge chunks out of the top two and by the time we had reached the last lap he was almost within touching distance of Enzo Fittipaldi. In the end Olli would just run out of time needing one more lap to mount a proper challenge, but it was nevertheless a brilliant performance and tactically very clever to save his tyres when others couldn’t.
With a full thirty minutes the result could have been different, but a podium was still a fantastic result for Olli’s championship campaign.
Starting fifth on the grid for race three Olli was hugely confident he could repeat his race two result at the very least, but he would not be given the chance to do so after the heavens opened and despite a rescheduled start and some laps behind the safety car, the track was not fit to hold a race leaving the officials no other choice but to cancel race three.
Olli Caldwell: "This has been a good weekend. In qualifying one we struggled as a team but we got on top of it in qualifying two with three cars within the top five. Race one was dry and a bit of a struggle. On this track it’s hard to overtake, especially with these cars. I got one position but, unfortunately, it was all I could do. Race two was wet and we were very strong. We managed the tyres well on the drying track, so we came very strong at the end. A few more laps and we could have been even higher up the podium. But we got good points and we look forward to the next event."
Overall Olli can leave Vallelunga very happy of his efforts. He showed determination to fight back in qualifying two, patience in a frustrating race one and tactical awareness to read the conditions in race two all of which helped him comfortably secure a podium.
Olli will now have a long until round three of the championship which will be on the opening weekend of July at the Hungaroring.