Coming off the back of a fantastic weekend at Hockenheim which saw Olli finish 2nd at the German Grand Prix, both confidence and expectations were high heading into Imola. It was round five of the Italian F4 championship and Olli was sitting in a strong 3rd place with the top two still at arm’s length.
However, the weekend would get off to a mixed start in qualifying. The first session saw Olli finish 8th place, which was not ideal but certainly no disaster either. Olli did not let his head drop though and put in a hugely impressive performance in the second session finishing an impressive 2nd place!
Olli made a good start to the first race of the weekend moving straight into 7th place and was a part of a lead train that were quickly breaking away from the rest of the field. Lap two and Olli was passed his teammate Gianluca Petecof to get into 6th with the battle for 5th just ahead. Driving a calculated race Olli waited until lap seven to make his move for 5th and he now had his teammate Enzo Fittipaldi directly ahead of him.
Working together with Fittipaldi the pair were closing in on a potential podium finish, but unfortunately just a couple of laps later Olli made a mistake which saw him take a brief trip off track and dropped him down to 9th place. Shortly afterwards the safety car was out and when the race was eventually restarted Olli was left with only a handful of laps to try and move back up the order. It would be a 9th place finish to get the weekend started, which was disappointing but there were still two more races to go on Sunday!
For race two Olli would start on the outside of the front row with championship rivals Leonardo Lorandi and Fittipaldi in 1st and 3rd. A good start almost saw Olli taking the lead off the line but he would be left on the unfavoured outside heading into turn one forcing him to back off and slot into 2nd. As Lorandi stretched his legs out front in the early stages, Olli was left to fend off Fittipaldi. As the race reached the conclusion of the first third not only was Olli able to do that but he was also dragging the pair closer to Lorandi!
As we moved into the second half of the race Olli’s consistency had seen him not only drop Fittipaldi but get closer to the back of his championship rival ahead. With just over ten minutes to go the safety car deployed bunching the field together for the final eight minutes. Normal service was then resumed but it wasn’t long before the safety car was needed again meaning we would get a showdown for the last two and a half minutes. In fairness to Lorandi his restart caught Olli slightly by surprise leaving the Brit under pressure. But he dealt it superbly and pulled away from Fittipaldi once again and left Lorandi with something to think about all the way to the flag! It was a brilliant drive and Olli’s sixth podium of the season.
Race three was a race that could have provided another podium but that would completely change at the end of lap one. Olli would start on the outside of row two and got off to a good start forming the back of an escaping lead quartet. Directly ahead was Lorandi who had Olli hot on his heels. Perhaps feeling the pressure, or cold tyres, Lorandi made a mistake at the final corner and ran wide with Olli reflecting his mistake and coming off a lot worse!
It’s something that is unfortunately too easy to do when you’re running in a close pack and being the second driver in the queue Olli was greeted with a cloud of gravel making it a slower return to the circuit. Olli rejoined the race in 8th place and fought hard as he attempted to move his way back up the order. But it was proving a difficult task with pressure from behind and overtaking opportunities minimal. Halfway through the race Olli dropped to 9th and like race one that would be where he
It was a disappointing end to the weekend, but the difficulty of overtaking was reflected by Lorandi who rejoined the track on lap one in 4th and remained there for the entire race.
Heading into the final two rounds Olli remains 3rd in the championship and realistically his aim will be to remain there now and pick up more podiums and race wins where he can. One impressive record that Olli currently has to his name is that he is currently the only driver in Italian F4 history to finish in the points in every single race of the season. Considering the luck that has been thrown at him at times, it is a seriously
“This was a difficult weekend for me. I made lots of mistakes that I will learn from going forwards, but it was good to still come away with a podium. Now we need to put that in the back of our minds and focus on the next races. I’ll be certainly looking to score more points and podiums!”
Next up for Olli in Italian F4 will be Vallelunga in mid-September, but before then Olli will be back in action this weekend at Nurburgring for round six of the ADAC F4 Championship.