Standing at 5.842km in length Circuit Paul Ricard is the second longest circuit on the 2021 calendar, carving through the distinctive blue-striped and red-striped patterns, the track offers a unique challenge for drivers as they look to master the perfect amount of grip, whilst avoiding the added wear from running over the abrasive striped run offs.
Taking to the track on Friday afternoon, Olli was keen to build on his strong pace in Barcelona. Confident as he left the pits, it was soon clear that the 30-car field was going to provide plenty of traffic and a frenetically close session. Putting his head down, Olli put in a push lap, but with two thirds of the grid separated by less than a second, he had to settle for P14. However, that just set him up for some tasty overtakes when racing got underway.
Picking up points
With eyes firmly on collecting points as the lights went out, the British driver was raring to go. Firing off the line with the full power of his PREMAa machine, Olli immediately tussled with his rivals, his intentions and pace was clear from the off. Making the most of his opportunities, he soon found his way up to clinch a points paying finish in 10th. His efforts affording him a strong starting position for the 2nd race later that afternoon, where Olli was keen to capitalise and score some good points.
“It was a good race, happy with the positions gained after a not so good qualifying, at least I managed to score some points in the end and get a good position for the reverse grid of race 2, when I’ll be focused on maximising the points as well. We were fast in traffic and by ourselves, so I’m looking forward to race 2 this afternoon.”
Starting from P3, the adrenaline was running high as PREMA driver had razor sharp focus on making moves at the start. Shutting his visor and running the revs high, Olli immediately scored a position as the lights went out. Holding his own against his teammates, the trio formed a Prema 1-2-3, with the British driver turning his attention to pressuring Leclerc for the lead.
Getting into the groove, he marked his rapid pace early on by claiming fastest lap of the whole 30 car field. Still running strong by Lap 8, Olli found himself under pressure from Hauger behind, who benefitted from the additional speed offered by DRS. Despite Hauger sweeping through on the straight, Olli didn’t make it easy for him as the battle continued through the next few laps.
Pushing hard throughout, as the race entered the final stages it was clear that the tyres were on the edge, which allowed Martins to make up some ground. Even with his best efforts to keep his rival behind, he was unfortunately denied a podium place in the penultimate lap. Crossing the line to finish 4th, despite being frustrated at the result, Olli earned a decent haul of points and credited the team for the phenomenal pace of the car beneath him.
Ending on a dampener
With more points on offer for the final race of the weekend, the target was clear as the 19-year-old made his way to the track on Sunday morning. However as the grid formed, the weather decided to play it’s hand, soaking the track to add an extra challenge to proceedings. Learning his craft in all-weather, Olli knew he could use this experience to make some moves and climb up the order from his starting position of 14th.
With wet tyres strapped on, the pack stormed off the grid leaving a cloud of spray in their wake. It didn’t take long before Olli was the driver making the most moves as other drivers around him struggled to manage the grip. Storming through to P10 in the opening lap, he was on course to a strong point scoring finish. But in a cruel twist he was clipped by another driver, which forced him to retire with broken suspension.
Finishing the weekend on a low point, the disappointment was understandable. But eagerly shaking off the bad luck, Olli turned his focus to the next challenge. With confidence in the PREMA machinery and grateful for the work of his engineers, Olli looks ahead to come back fighting when racing resumes in two weeks time.
"Unfortunately, it was not a great weekend for me at Paul Ricard. I managed to salvage some points in race 1 and 2, but we could have done a much better job, so apologies to the team. We will bounce back stronger in Austria and hopefully have a better weekend."
Olli Caldwell leaves Paul Ricard with 41 points and sits 5th in the championship standings. FIA Formula 3 returns at the Austrian Grand Prix on the 2nd–4th July.