Ilott stars in Spielberg thriller
Victory, second and fourth see Ilott climb to second in the championship
With a win, second and fourth places at the Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria, Callum Ilott stepped up his title aspirations, climbing four places to move into second in the FIA F3 Championship.
Ilott’s impressive weekend started with pole position, his first in the category, for Saturday’s opening round. Leading away from the lights, Ilott enjoyed a tussle with rival Maximilian Gunther, snatching back the lead moments before the first safety car was deployed. Managing the restart beautifully, Ilott pulled away for the rest of the race until a serious accident involving three cars, including Ilott’s team mate Pedro Piquet, forced an immediate race stoppage. With two drivers requiring medical attention, Ilott’s first trip to the podium was understandably muted. “It was very difficult heading to the podium, not knowing all the detail of their condition,” said Ilott. “I now know Ryan and Pedro are both doing OK, and I wish Peter Li all the best and a speedy recovery from his injuries."
Saturday’s second race had a more frustrating conclusion for the Hertfordshire 17-year-old. Having qualified third, Ilott surged past rival George Russell on the opening lap, leaving just championship leader Lance Stroll in front. A further safety car bunched this trio and on the restart, Ilott successfully defended from Russell. As the laps counted down, Ilott maintained his position, carefully managing his used set of tyres.
Despite finishing second on the road, Ilott’s VAR team was informed later that evening that he would be served with a time penalty. On a weekend that saw the race stewards rigorously penalising any drivers that exceeded the Red Bull Ring’s track limits, Ilott was handed a five second penalty that dropped him down to fourth.“It was frustrating, especially as it came after the race had finished and I didn’t think I’d used more of the run-off area than my rivals,” added Ilott. “With so many track limit penalties being handed out there seemed to be some inconsistencies initially, and only after a meeting between the team managers and officials after race 2, was the process made clear and consistently applied to all drivers in race 3."
Sunday’s final round was an altogether more straightforward race for Ilott. Having saved two fresh tyres for the event, Ilott was able to hold a secure second place behind Stroll. Despite another safety car after three laps, Ilott was able to manage the gap over Maximilian Gunther to add another valuable 18 points to his growing tally that sees the Haileybury student just 38 points behind leader Stroll with six more events to go. “With the risk of a further penalty firmly in my mind, knowing how damaging it would be, I was so careful,” said Ilott. “I would have preferred to push harder and attack Lance rather than just having to drive around, staying within the lines, but the stewards were rigid on any mistakes and a few points lost might be crucial come the end of the season.”
With a month until the next race at the Norisring in Germany, Ilott isn’t slowing down. “I’ve got to plough through a few more AS Level exams this week, then I’m looking to get out in a few other different events which I’ll be able to confirm in the coming weeks,” concludes Ilott. “I’ll drive almost anything if the offer comes up!”
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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.