After the disappointment of Red Bull Ring and a long summer break, Olli couldn’t have bounced back any better after taking a win and two podiums at Imola. If not for an incident in race three it could have been another podium finishing round, but despite the DNF Olli has still climbed up to fourth in the standings with third very much in his sights as we head in to the final three rounds of the season.
Determined to get his season straight back on track after the summer break, Olli arrived at Imola hunting for no less than podium finishes. Having scored four on the bounce prior to Red Bull Ring, Olli was looking to get another run going and with third and fourth in Friday’s practice session it appeared normal service had resumed.
The opening qualifying session saw Olli fighting for pole all the way to the flag. Frederik Vesti would have been feeling uncomfortable in pole with Olli lighting up the timing screens going on to finish in third place just two tenths off Igor Fraga. The second session would see Olli repeat that result putting him third on the grid for all three races.
There would be a fourth race at the end of the weekend which would be a re-run of the race that was cancelled at Vallelunga due to adverse weather conditions. The same grid would be applied meaning Olli would start in fifth.
Olli was quick off the line in race one as he slotted straight in to second behind Fraga with Vesti sitting behind in third. As Fraga quickly got up to pace Olli kept the pressure on with the rest of the field struggling to keep up. The gap would continue to grow as Fraga and Olli pulled away with Vesti watching on in third before the safety car came out at the halfway stage.
The restart saw normal service resume with Fraga and Olli immediately pulling a gap as the chasing pack disputed third behind. Olli would briefly fall back from Fraga before quickly fighting back and going into the final two minutes he was piling pressure on the Brazilian. Opportunities to pass around Imola come few and far between and with none presenting themselves Olli would settle for second to take his fifth podium of the season!
With confidence now flying again it was time for race two where Olli would start third behind his Prema teammates Vesti and Enzo Fittipaldi. Olli was quick off the line, unlike his teammates which gave Olli the lead going through turn one. Like race one Olli upped the pace in the early stages with Vesti the only one able to respond as the pair broke away.
As we entered the second half of the race Olli was now under huge pressure from Vesti who eventually got the run going down to Rivazza and pulled off the switch back into the second section of the corner. Once through Olli was unable to fight back and would settle for a second place making it two podiums for the day!
Sunday’s third race looked to be going in the same direction as Saturday with Olli going from third to second off the line. Quickly settling in to the race all was going well until a mistake five minutes in saw Olli into the gravel on the exit of Rivazza ending up in the barriers. Able to limp back to the pit lane unfortunately the team discovered there was too much damage and Olli was forced to retire from the race.
Thankfully there would be a fourth and final race which would be a re-run from Vallelunga’s cancelled third race with Olli fifth on the grid. It gave him another chance to take one more podium or maybe even a win!
Another lightening start saw Olli go straight into fourth and things got even better with Olli pulling off a fantastic move on Vesti going around the outside at the right hander of Villeneuve giving him the inside for turn six. The moves wouldn’t stop there, with the bit between his teeth Olli pulled off the same move on Sophia Florsch albeit at Traguardo putting the Brit up to second!
That brought out the safety car and with twenty minutes to go we were racing again with Isac Blomqvist now the only driver in Olli’s way. On a charge, it seemed only a matter of time before Olli would hit the front and at the restart it took him just one corner before he was once again down the outside at Traguardo and into the race lead!
With Vesti following him through we entered a repeat scenario of race two with Vesti eventually going past at Rivazza. Olli would once again settle in behind to finish a comfortable second to cap off a brilliant weekend. However, things would get even better post-race after Vesti was hit with a 25 second penalty for an incident under the safety car giving Olli the race win!
It is officially his first of the season and one Olli decided to dedicate to the late Anthoine Hubert. The Formula 2 driver tragically passed away whilst racing at Spa the day before and was driving for Olli’s former team, Arden Motorsport. There were muted celebrations with Olli racing in his memory and there was a minute’s silence on the start/finish straight where the whole grid would pay its respects to the French man.
Olli Caldwell: “This was a very good weekend. My engine issues from RBR have been solved and this shows what we can be capable of when everything goes our way. We gained lots of points and have boosted myself in the championship. I cannot be fully happy with my win in race 4 though, this weekend was a reminder of how dangerous motorsport racing can be, I would like to dedicate this win to Anthoine.”
With a win and seven podiums now to his name Olli moves up to fourth in the championship on 164 points and is 22 points behind Fraga. There are now three rounds remaining with round six at Catalunya coming up next weekend!