Olli Caldwell says that he didn’t believe a points-finish was going to be possible after a disappointing Qualifying, given Zandvoort’s reputation for being a difficult track to overtake on, but a unexpected turn of events helped him to turn his fortunes around.
When opportunity knocked, the Campos Racing driver answered. Starting from P19 and after being unable to make any moves off the line, he and his team took full advantage of the chaos that unfolded with the red flag and two Safety Cars to claim an impressive eighth in Sunday’s Feature Race.
“Pretty crazy! I didn't have the best of starts. We went for a bit of a mix with a strategy, we started on the prime tyre and got a bit lucky with the red flag honestly. First of all, I’m glad Logan (Sargeant) is okay. That did help us, so we managed to switch to the option tyre after the red flag. Then, it was a bit crazy at the restarts, kept clean and managed to get through the carnage. We got lucky with the other Safety Cars in the race.
“Staying out of trouble I think was key, especially around tracks like this where you can’t overtake. That’s what happened and it ended in a good result.”
“Certainly, I didn’t expect to be in the points. This is probably the hardest track on the calendar to overtake on, so I’m very happy that we got this result. Obviously, I’d prefer to be in the points maybe from a higher position, but to salvage a good result like that from that far back on a track like this, I’m very happy with it.”
Tyre strategy proved to be the make or break component of several drivers’ weekends. The early red flag gave the Briton a window of opportunity to change his tyres for free ahead of his switchover, as the layout of the Zandvoort pit lane left the field unable to make their mandatory stop during any of the Safety Car periods.
Then by opting to swap over early on Lap 12, it gave him the benefit of track position, allowing him to hold off Jehan Daruvala as the race ticked closer to its conclusion. Caldwell acknowledged that circumstances had played into his hands nicely.
“I think because we weren’t allowed to pit under the Safety Car that really decided the strategy for a lot of people. My engineer made a great call under the red flag to swap back to the option tyre and we gained a few positions, so we swapped back to the normal strategy.
“We were kind of gambling on a Safety Car and luckily one came, that massively helped. It was a bit of luck in the end, that’s what we needed, and it came our way.”
After the tight and twisty Dutch circuit, Caldwell faces a very different challenge on his return to Monza’s Temple of Speed. Known for its full-throttle blasts, long straights and fast corners, it’ll be a test of the drivers’ bravery on brakes.
While the circuit hasn’t always been one of his strongest, the Campos racer is excited to head back to the track after a year away and is aiming to improve his one-lap pace to be fighting in the points on a more regular basis.
“I love Monza, so I’m really happy to be going back there – the last time I raced there was in 2020. I think the team is very strong. It’s one of my favourite tracks, one of the team’s favourite tracks and there’s a lot more overtaking possibilities.
“It’s a track I know very well, so I’ll be looking to maximise Qualifying. That’s our only goal and trying to get some more good results.”