Ilott’s ‘Pau’dium tops strong FIA F3 weekend
Three top five finishes including a podium, see Ilott climb up the championship table
Callum Ilott is now within striking distance of the FIA F3 championship leaders after securing a third, fourth and fifth place on the challenging streets of Pau this weekend. Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Grand Prix de Pau, held on the tight, narrow yet quick circuit that weaves around the French town, is arguably the most prestigious event on the calendar, posing a unique challenge to the competitors that leaves no room for error.
With heavy rain punishing even the smallest mistake on Friday, Ilott’s impressive weekend started by topping both free practice sessions. “Our car was great and we carried the momentum from last year with a good set up that I could really work with,” says Ilott. Quali 1 was hindered for Ilott by a significant time spent in the pits after snapping a pushrod, giving Ilott less than 8 minutes back out to set a good time. “l love the challenge of Pau,” says Ilott. “You’ve got to be so precise as any mistake really punishes you. I lost a little running time after brushing a kerb that required the pushrod to be changed but the VAR guys did a great job to get me back out and make sure the car was about straight!”
After the first qualifying, Ilott lined up fifth for the opening race. On a wet track he was able to keep out of trouble and maintain fifth and underlining his pace, achieved the fastest lap. The nuances of qualifying meant that despite being fastest in his group in Quali 2 and nominally the pole sitter, Ilott had to line up second for race two and his own race was already compromised. Forced to start on the damper side of the drying circuit, Ilott was at a severe disadvantage to those on the grippier and drier left hand side. Lacking the traction afforded to those starting on the dry side, Ilott lost significant ground but held his nerve as his rivals struggled to stay on the track. Not for the first time this season, Ilott revelled in difficult track conditions to stay out of trouble and push hard. When rival Alessio Lorandi picked up a puncture after clipping the ever present barriers, Ilott moved into third and despite two safety car periods that bunched the field together, Ilott wasn’t threatened and bagged his second podium of the season. “It was so hard to get grip at the start but I just got my head down, secured a podium but most importantly, a good number of points that see me very much back in the title race.”
Sunday’s headlining and incident-packed GP de Pau saw Ilott grid up in sixth for a dry race. Avoiding the carnage ahead as Nick Cassidy and Sergio Sette Camara collided, Ilott was swiftly up to fourth. A faultless performance saw Ilott hunt down third placed and race one winner George Russell who was suffering a suspected slow puncture. With few overtaking opportunities possible, time ran out before Ilott could find a way past. “It’s been a really good weekend and the best way to bounce back after Hungary. I think we did have the pace to get more points but I’m happy we came away with three top five finishes,” adds Ilott. “There is no rest; we race next weekend at the Red Bull Ring but I’ve got the small matter of a maths ‘A’ Level to fit in before then!”
Ilott’s next F3 outing is in Austria at the Red Bull Ring 20th-22nd May.
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About Callum Ilott
Based in the UK and still in full-time education at Haileybury, Hertford, 17-year-old Callum Ilott is one of Britain's upcoming young driving talents. At 12, he secured his first British national karting championship and just one year later dominated the international under 15s KFJ category with multiple championship wins and was nominated as the youngest ever WSK Driver of the Year in 2012. Aged 15, he won the CIK-FIA European Karting Championship, the WSK Super Master Series and finished fourth in the CIK-FIA World Championship. Aged 16, Callum was Red Bull’s first ever driver to progress from karts to F3 to race in the FIA F3 European Championship securing a podium at the Nürburgring. In 2016 he will return to the championship with experienced Dutch team VAR.