Coming off the back of his first test with the team at Silverstone back in June, the British driver’s second opportunity in Formula 1 machinery saw him rack up 520km behind the wheel of the 2021 A521.
Adapting to the humid conditions at the Bahrain International Circuit, Caldwell was pleased with how he’s progressed since his first outing in order to cope with the demanding nature of an F1 car, particularly the toll the high g-forces take on a driver’s body.
“I had a lot of time to prepare for it and I was out there for five days with the team preparing as well, working with them behind the scenes,” he said. “Since Monza, I’ve spent a lot of time training physically for the test because I knew how hard it was going to be after Silverstone.
“That meant that when I jumped in the car (in Bahrain) I was a lot better prepared physically, which I’m really happy with because it’s obviously such a big step from F2 to F1. To be able to complete the day not struggling at all with my neck or fitness was really good and the team were happy with that as well.
“I was able to sort of get used to the speed within one or two sessions. Still on the soft tyres in Qualifying runs it’s incredible how much more downforce and speed there is, but over the course of the day I was getting a lot more at home in the car and getting more comfortable with the speed.”
Taking full advantage of the opportunity to further his development as an Alpine Academy junior, Caldwell encountered the crucial challenge of trying to get to grips with the various Pirelli tyre compounds. The 20-year-old noted that experiencing the tyres across the two contrasting circuits was very beneficial to aiding his understanding of them.
“The tyre deg was a lot more in Bahrain, so to do a race run was very difficult. There was a lot of tyre saving going on, but it gave me a good opportunity to run through controls on the car which can help with that. Compared to Silverstone, it’s a completely different track – there's a real mix of slow-speed and high-speed corners, so it was more of a difficult track to drive.
“In terms of Qualifying runs, I was learning how to utilise how much grip is available in an F1 car. Not only are the steps between compounds quite a lot, but also the one lap grip that is available is insane. The car is moving around quite a bit, but is also stable at the same time, which is weird. During the race runs it was about discovering how easy it is to overuse the tyres, but if you don’t overuse them, then you can gain seconds over the whole race.”
Acknowledging that his rookie F2 campaign hasn’t panned out how he would have liked, Caldwell says his experience testing with Alpine in Bahrain has helped bolster his self-belief heading into the final round in Yas Marina later this month.
“It’s given me a massive confidence boost, for Alpine to trust me to drive the car and to work with me behind the scenes. Also, where we ended up in the test was very strong. I’m happy to show that I’m still quick in a car to the people that matter.”
He added: “This year hasn’t gone perfectly in F2, so for Alpine to say that I’m allowed to drive the car and for me to show that I can still drive fast was really good. I’m grateful for what I learned by driving the F1 car and the mileage I did in it, and I hope that I can do it again soon.
“I’ll go into Abu Dhabi more confident. I believe in myself a lot more and I’ll just try to do the best job I can out there and really enjoy it.”
Image Copyright: 115 Degrees