Olli Caldwell made great strides at the Hungaroring this weekend, where he earned his best qualifying and a top ten finish to boot, as the Formula 2 season reaches the Summer Break.
Just a short distance from Budapest sits the 4.3km track, boasting sharp turns and long straights, the track offers a tricky challenge and minimal chances for overtaking. Looking to bounce back from his tricky outing at Paul Ricard, Olli had a clear goal of putting himself in a strong position on the grid.
Topping the timings
Having showed good pace in practice before qualifying got underway on Friday afternoon, qualifying was all about a balance of strong pace and strategy. As the first times began to trickle in, Olli found himself P16 with confidence that he had plenty more in the tank.In a strategic roll of the dice that turned to be a masterstroke, as the track cleared of drivers, the Campos team opted to send Olli out in the gap to punch in some fast laps. Enjoying some clear running and the track to himself, the Alpine Academy driver shot up to P1 clocking in 1:28.803 to go over four thousandths quicker than Vesti. But with the track conditions improving, that time proved to be good enough for 13th on the grid overall. Scoring his best qualifying of the season so far, which would be vital on a track where overtaking is particularly tough.
“It’s our best qualifying and probably our best session of the year so far. We made big steps forward today – both myself and team – in understanding where we were lacking in qualifying. It’s frustrating to be just outside the Top Ten, but the team did a great job and we’re in a good place to fight in the races”
Lining up on the grid on Saturday evening, Olli was in the zone and ready to fight his way towards the points. Firing lightning quick reactions off the line he immediately boosted himself to be running in P11 in the opening lap. Hooking into the back of Verschoor ahead, he ran super close and maintained the gap within a second. Focusing on using his DRS to get close and try to force his rival to make a mistake. With both Verschoor and Daruvala receiving a time penalty, Olli was promoted to P9 on the road when they peeled into the pits. With a gap to the leading pack leaving him out of DRS range, the British driver was vulnerable to the chase of Pourchaire behind.
Defending well he wisely allowed another room as his rival carried the speed into Turn 1. Which in turn allowed Olli to switch back to the inside and pile on the pressure, before relenting to keep his tyres in check.As the race ran on pretty uneventfully, he battled hard and defended supremely to cross the line in 10th, earning a strong Top Ten finish.
“That was good race from my side and I’m really happy to finish inside the Top Ten. Unfortunately we got caught behind Verschoor for a while, which caused some tyre degradation. But overall we had some good battles and defending. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow!”
Not his day…
Buoyed by his positive results and on track battles throughout the weekend, Olli was on the hunt for points once again when the grid formed for the Feature Race on Sunday morning. With a mandatory pit stop adding a touch of spice to proceedings, the 20-year-old was ready to battle his way through the pack.
Following the track grip washed away from rain overnight. Olli struggled for grip off the line and had his work cut out for him when racing got underway, further forced to run wide in the opening corners dropping to 18th place. But the resolute racer certainly didn’t let that deter him as he opted to make the early pit stop on Lap 8.
Running at the back, he improved to P16 as the pit stops began, but it was very much a game of keeping the tyres under control whilst trying to keep his nose clean. As rain began to threaten, Olli managed to make a mighty comeback to be running just shy of the points before coming under increasing pressure from those on fresher tyres.
Running in P11, he swept through the turns ready to pounce at any opportunity as the final laps ticked down. But unfortunately it wasn’t to be as he was forced to pull up and retire on the last lap, having narrowly run out of fuel in the dying moments of the race.
With the Formula 2 calendar having reached the Summer Break, Olli Caldwell will be working hard in the downtime to come back stronger in the final part of the season