Alpine Academy driver Olli Caldwell made his test debut with BWT Alpine F1 Team yesterday, taking to the seat of the A521 at his home track Silverstone. For the realisation of a childhood dream, Olli was trusted with the opportunity to run with the team as part of their young driver test programme, where he completed 485.7km across the morning and afternoon sessions.
Olli’s first taste of F1 machinery came twelve years to the day since his first karting experience, driving at the legendary Silverstone circuit. He took the wheel of Fernando Alonso's Alpine A521 Formula 1 car, driven last season to a podium at the Qatar Grand Prix. The sister chassis, driven by Esteban Ocon, took Alpine's first Formula 1 victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix helping the team secure 5th in the 2021 Constructors Championship.
Rapidly getting to grips with the new machinery which boasts up to 950bhp and 15,000 rpm. The morning session saw the twenty year old Alpine Academy driver put in a series of six lap runs, with the main focus on getting a good understanding of the car and the way it differs to the 620bhp Formula 2 car he is currently competing in.
Fresh from his outing, Olli reflected on this incredible opportunity and the differences to that of his Formula 2 car:
“It’s been unbelievable and I’m quite speechless, there’s nothing I could compare it to. It’s everything I expected and more. There’s nothing you can do to prepare for how it feels. The car is incomparable to F2, everything is more, there’s more speed, downforce, braking plus there's about 50 more buttons.
I’ve got used to working much faster in this car and then going back to F2, where obviously it’s slower, I will be able to take forward what I’ve learned from this experience and adapt it when I’m back driving this circuit in a F2 car.”
Throughout the day Olli worked closely with the engineers, providing feedback to the team to ensure he extracted every ounce of performance from the experience. Powering his way around the famous British circuit, he successfully completed the run plan for the test, which included several fast-paced qualifying simulations.
Olli credited the team for their support:
“I’d like to take the opportunity to thank BWT F1 Alpine Team for allowing me this opportunity, as without them, an experience like this isn’t possible. For not only being in the Academy, but to get this opportunity to drive last year’s F1 car. It’s been incredible.”
Julian Rouse, Alpine Academy Project Manager summarised Olli’s first test:
“Olli did a great job today. He kept a sensible head and put in a lot of laps, showing maturity on his debut. He was committed and gave detailed feedback after each run which allowed him to make some good progress throughout the day. Overall a very good approach that shows lots of promise. I'm sure he will be able to put this experience to good use as he moves forward in F2 this season.”
Director of Infinity Sports Management Gary Catt concluded:
“It’s always good to see any driver get to drive an F1 car for the first time. Olli is our fifth driver that has been given the opportunity of a F1 test and each is as memorable as the next. With so many different emotions going through them through the whole event from the build up to actually driving the car is such a fantastic opportunity for them. It was a very positive day for Olli and a memory that he can treasure forever.”