Olli Caldwell was in fine form this weekend as he fought to collect a podium and a healthy haul of points, despite a tricky weekend for the young British driver. As the championship reached its halfway point, Olli certainly kept himself within the title fight with a valiant race pace at the Hungaroring.
With the Budapest circuit notoriously difficult for overtaking, as qualifying got underway on Friday Olli had a clear goal of putting himself in a strong position for Sunday’s grid. But with vastly different conditions to the earlier practice session, unfortunately Olli could only manage 9th.
Despite being disappointed with the results, Olli picked himself up and turned his focus on the opening race of the weekend. Where with the reverse grid he would be lining up at the front of the pack with a podium in his sights.
Pushing to the podium
Storming off the line as lights went out on Saturday morning, Olli was immediately ready for battle. With a lock up from his rivals in front, he edged his way into the inside as the pack ran into Turn 1. But rapidly assessing the risk, the Prema driver wisely backed out to bide his time, all the while running right on the heels of the podium places. Soon he was under pressure from a charging Sargeant, defending hard he slightly ran wide, causing him to lose ground to the front three. However, Olli responded by proving his stronger pace, stamping in the fastest lap as he pulled the gap back down to 0.7.
Having a tentative look and eyeing up any small overtaking opportunities, Olli understood not to take any risks, keen to maximise his point advantage with his nearest title rivals further back in the field. Soon enough, Edgar had a loss of power and slowed from the front which promoted Olli into the podium spots. From here he just had to keep his head down and defend his position, ready to seize any further opportunity that came his way.
By Lap 15, Sargeant was right on his tail with the benefit of DRS on his side. Which just gave Olli the chance to pull some strong defensive moves to keep him at bay. But with Vesti pulling up at the side of the track, the safety car was called to bring a brief respite to the fight. With confidence in his Prema machinery, Olli powered off at the restart and maintained his position, reigning in Iwasa for P2. Despite his stronger pace, the narrow opportunities for overtaking at the Hungarian track meant he crossed the line in third just 0.2s behind Iwasa.
However a post-race penalty for the race winner meant that Olli scored an extra position, to add the 2nd place trophy and even more points to his tally.
“I’m glad to get some good points from this race. I was catching P2 by the end and I was pushing as hard as I could but with the temperature going up it was difficult, so it was about maintaining the tyres and not taking any major risks. I’m happy overall and we're seeing that the Championship is changing every race, so we’ll see where we are at the end of the weekend”
Eager to claim more points, the British driver was once again raring to go for Race 2 later that day. Starting P11 he knew he had the hard work to do and was ready for the challenge. Firing off the line it wasn’t the start he had hoped for, as he attempted to pass Rasmussen going into Turn 1, the pair collided and he began to drop down the order.
Coming into the pits to repair damage to the front wing and front left tyre, he managed to get going once again and it was time to see what he could salvage from the race. Pushing past the sinking feeling, Olli completed the race and despite running at the back, came home with the fastest lap of the race, further cementing his strong pace.
Back in the points
With a deluge of rain soaking the track just before the race start on Sunday morning. It certainly gave a tantalising twist to proceedings, as the Brit eyed up his chances in the wet conditions.
Beginning with a rolling start, the wall of spray meant it was a race of pure skill as Olli took a place from Sargeant, whilst keeping his nose clean as the pack swept through the opening lap. With the safety car called to retrieve the stricken car of Martins, Olli was looping in 8th.
Searching for any inch of grip as the racing resumed, he locked into a battle with Sargeant and Iwasa, the trio trading places as the track began to dry.
Trying to keep his foot in as much as he could, throughout safety car periods he capitalised on Iwasa’s mistakes to claim back 8th place in the closing laps. His efforts rewarded with more points to his campaign.
Reflecting on a weekend of highs and lows, Olli is confident he has more to give, when racing resumes.
“This weekend could’ve gone better, but overall we gained in the championship and that’s the main goal. Now we reset over the summer break and I’ll be ready to come back fighting.”
Olli Caldwell sits third in the championship standings with 86 points, FIA Formula 3 returns at the Belgian Grand Prix on 27th–29th August.