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Ilott maintains 100 per cent points-scoring run with a podium at Spa

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Ferrari Academy Driver Callum Ilott secured his sixth podium of the GP3 2018 season at the sixth round Belgian Grand Prix held this weekend. Alongside his third place in Sunday’s sprint race, Ilott also finished sixth in Saturday’s encounter and has collected points in every race so far this season. In spite of the consistency, Ilott felt he could have done a better job this weekend.

“I know I should be satisfied with my results because consistent point scoring for the championship is important but I know I could have delivered more,” explains Ilott.  “A collection of small errors, contact and a bit of bad luck on track all played their part and I feel some points and positions were left on the track.”

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Friday’s qualifying saw Ilott finish sixth, only 7/100ths behind Anthoine Hubert in second position over a two minute four second plus qualifying lap time. Ilott’s shot at pole on the last lap initially looked on; “Frustratingly on the last push lap I had such a good first sector that it meant I got too close to the car in front, so I just didn’t optimise the rest of the lap. I still have more to perfect in qualifying.”

Cool and damp conditions for Saturday’s race saw some of the drivers struggle to get away cleanly. Into La Source, Ilott found himself almost at standstill as he and his teammates were backed up behind Pedro Piquet who failed to accelerate cleanly on the run down to Eau Rouge. “After I had such a good getaway, a slow start ahead checked my momentum, and then I was pretty unlucky with the track position after that.  Sticking to the outside is the safest option at La Source as there is plenty of room should you need it but it was like a traffic jam and I found myself down to eighth.”

Ilott soon dispatched Giuliano Alesi to be seventh before mounting an attack on team mate Nikita Mazepin on Lap Two at Les Combes. “I got alongside Nikita but on the exit, he ran wide forcing me off the road and airborne. It was lucky I was able to continue,” says Ilott.  “Some car damage and a speed deficit to the Trident cars meant closing the gap was tough.”

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Visibly struggling to match the pace of his rivals, Ilott persevered but couldn’t close the gap as the remainder of the 17 lap race ticked down until, with three laps to go, he was able to get past fellow Brit Jake Hughes to finish sixth.

Overnight, changes were made by the ART team in a bid to improve relative performance to Trident. Following a delayed start, due to mist hanging over the circuit, Ilott made a good getaway from third to move into second at Turn One and set about chasing pole sitter Joey Mawson. By lap two and without the aid of DRS, Ilott was alongside the leader heading to Les Combes. Again, Ilott was involved in contact with Mawson forcing him into the run off area and over the kerbs. “The car was really good after the overnight tweaks, and I knew the other ART cars would be stronger and would soon be attacking, so I wanted to get past Joey early on. Waiting another lap for the DRS may have been more sensible but I knew I was quicker and I could see the gap,” claims Ilott.

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Having lost momentum with his trip over the kerbs, Ilott then lost two places as his two team mates got by. Undaunted, Ilott charged back and by lap four was in third and closing in on Jake Hughes. By lap seven, Ilott overtook Hughes to go second. As the laps ticked by, Ilott increasingly came under pressure from Hubert in third and just two laps from the end, the French driver was able to get past using DRS with the pair holding station to the flag.

“It feels like the weekend has been more about damage limitation but in reality it was solid points and just a number of minor factors that cost some ground to my nearest challengers,” concludes Ilott. “We remain second and well within reach of the championship. It’s just a week until the next race at Monza, in effect, my second home race and I will be fighting back.”