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Qualifying Race podium tops mixed Macau weekend for Ilott

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Ilott secures third and seventh places in an unpredictable weekend of drama

Despite a strong qualifying performance with P2 in both sessions, Callum Ilott’s return to F3 at the 65th Macau Grand Prix was only rewarded with a third and seventh place. Against this year’s crop of both European and Japanese series F3 drivers, Ilott, driving for his former team Carlin, was competitive from the outset on a track he really enjoys. “I’ve enjoyed coming back to F3 and racing these cars at Macau again,” says Ilott. “After strong quali and the podium on Saturday, Macau showed again how unpredictable it can be on Sunday when we just didn’t have the straight line speed to compete at the re-starts.”

Despite a scare at the end of qualifying that saw Ilott make a skilful avoidance of Marino Sato’s crashed car, Ilott lined up on the front row alongside eventual winner Dan Ticktum. “I was halfway through braking for the Police corner when the yellow flag was shown,” says Ilott. “I saw a gap but it was tight, especially as the rear of the car is wider.  Somehow, and I’m still not quite sure how, I squeezed through.”

 

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The Qualification Race that determines the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix took place early on Saturday morning. In Ilott’s first F3 race start since the 2017 event, the Ferrari junior tucked in behind Ticktum before making a move, around the outside of the fast Mandarin curve to move into the lead. Oversteer on the exit of the tight Lisboa meant Ilott ran very close to the barrier but was still ahead. “I had a good start and got into the lead but Dan was faster in a straight line and towed past a lap later and I was back to P2.” There was further drama on lap three when a stray dog forced a safety car period. “Macau is unpredictable!,” adds Ilott. “I saw it but I was clear but it was closer for Dan.”

The race resumed with now six racing laps to go. Ilott put up a robust defence to hold off both Joel Eriksson and Sascha Fenestraz but the Swede found a way past with five laps to go. Ilott then withstood further pressure from Fenestraz, setting a personal best lap in the process, before the flag fell and Ilott secured another podium, his third at one of the most difficult tracks to master. “It was good to be back on the podium. We lacked a bit of speed but with changes planned to the car, I felt all was to play for on Sunday,” claims Ilott.

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Sunday’s Macau Grand Prix saw Ilott make a less successful getaway. On the long run to Lisboa, Ilott was able to move into fourth but was hemmed in on the outside at the righthander and slipped back to fifth. Ilott then ran side by side with Mick Schumacher in the mountain section before getting ahead of the European champion. “I bogged down at the start and was trying to find some space, ending up on the outside. It was very close with Mick but it was clean from both sides,” adds Ilott.

The race was then stopped after a serious accident involving Sophia Floersch, that led to a lengthy delay to repair the barriers and catch fencing. “Everyone was concerned about Sophia and those behind the barrier,” says Ilott. “My thoughts are with her, the marshals, photographers and everyone else involved,” The race was restarted with nine laps to go and Ilott fell down to seventh on the run down to Lisboa.

Undaunted, Ilott fought his way back up to sixth before a further safety car bunched up the field. This time into Lisboa, Ilott was hit hard from behind and only just avoided ending up in the wall. “It was a big knock but the main issue today was a lack of speed to be able to tow back to the cars in front,” adds Ilott who slipped to seventh by the flag. “This year it didn’t go my way but that is the special appeal of Macau and why it has drawn me back year after year. I enjoyed working with the guys at Carlin again too. The main thing now is how Sophia is and I’m thinking of her, her family and all those involved.”

Ilott now heads directly to Abu Dhabi to conclude his GP3 season where he currently lies third in the standings, his highest championship position in cars.

 

 

Callum Ilott returns to Macau with Carlin for F3 World Cup assault

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‘Unfinished business’ sees Ferrari Academy Driver heading to Macau GP

GP3 front-runner Callum Ilott will be reunited with Carlin for a return to F3 at the Macau Grand Prix next month. The 2017 Qualification Race winner, who hasn’t driven in the F3 category since last year’s event, will race with the team that he made his Macau debut with back in 2015.

After challenging for the GP3 title through the year, the attraction of the unpredictable street circuit saw Ilott accept the chance to return for the 65th running of the event. “The real appeal is the challenge of the track – I just love it.  It’s given me some highs and lows over the last three years;  I’ve kissed the trophies and the walls and I am still coming back again,” says Ilott. “It’s unique; it can be rewarding, frustrating and even cruel but when it all comes together, a decent lap around there is like nothing else.”

After a podium in 2016 and winning with an eight second lead on Saturday in 2017, the Ferrari Academy Driver says he feels the need to return to the former Portuguese enclave. “To have led that Saturday race last year and gapped it, and then not have the closure of the win on Sunday last year is most definitely unfinished business for me.  It’s one of those races that’s now a personal target to win. I know Trevor and the Carlin team well from 2015 and they also came close to winning in the crazy race last November. This could be the last year that the current generation of F3 cars compete at Macau so it would be special to get the result together, a team I started in F3 with. I’m sure we can be right in the mix.”

“We are pleased to welcome Callum back to the team who we last worked with in 2015,” says Trevor Carlin. “He competed with us in FIA F3 so has great experience in the car and took pole position at the event last year – it’s definitely somewhere that he’s got good pace and a score to settle.”

The Macau GP will take place from the 14th to the 18th November ahead of Ilott’s final GP3 race in Abu Dhabi one week later. “The F3 Dallara is a car that’s been such a big part of my racing career,” adds Ilott. “It’s an unpredictable event, anything can happen, but winning at Macau would be a nice way to sign off my time with that car.”

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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.”

 

 

Ilott takes maiden GP3 Series win

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Ferrari Junior Callum Ilott, secured his first win in the GP3 category with an emphatic Sprint Race victory at his team’s home track, Paul Ricard this weekend.

Coupled with a points-paying eighth in Saturday’s race, Ilott leaves the French Grand Prix venue fourth in the standings.

“Getting my first GP3 sprint win, at ART’s home race, somehow feels like the right thing,” says Ilott. “Big thanks to ART as the car felt really good and so I was able to showcase a little more of what’s possible.”

“The weekend didn’t go exactly to plan,“ continues Ilott, “So it’s a real bonus to take a win on the second weekend in the Championship and my first GP3 win with the FDA.”

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Starting from pole position, Ilott was outpaced by a fast-starting Pedro Piquet into Turn Two. Ilott followed closely and waited until the Beausset corner to pounce back. With a confident move diving to the inside, Ilott was back ahead and pulling away by the end of lap one as Piquet defended from Mawson.

“I was expecting to get a better start than I did. I had a bit of an issue managing the clutch which was overheating. So I didn’t get the best getaway,” explains Ilott. “Although Pedro initially got ahead, he looked like he was struggling with his tyre temp. I sat tight and then in the second fastest corner of the track I held it on the inside (or outside) and I had enough traction to get past. From there, with the clean air, I focused on building a gap.”

“Having opened the gap to Pedro, that made it easier to deal with the degradation so I crossed the line with a comfortable three-second lead.”

Sunday morning’s race, ahead of the French Grand Prix, followed Saturday’s encounter where Ilott ultimately finished in eighth, which converted into the pole position for Sunday’s outing.

“Our strategy didn’t play out as we’d planned on Friday and Saturday,” says Ilott. “An imperfect quali session from me, meant I was starting P7.  After another tricky getaway, I was managing tyres and looking to use DRS later in the race. Frustratingly, just as I was about to push forward, the DRS was totally disabled and that was that. I got passed my teammate Jake, and then I tried everything I could to pass Mawson ahead of me without the DRS, but it wasn’t to be.  I hear it was quite entertaining to watch.”

“Ultimately though, finishing eighth after the stewarding decisions later in the day, gifted me an opportunity to turn the weekend around.  In racing you take the luck when it comes your way so I made sure I made the most of it.”

The next two weeks now see Callum competing at two tracks at which he has won in F3, kicking off with the Red Bull Ring in Austria, before his home race at Silverstone just one week later.

“Although we are now moving on to tracks where I haven’t tested the GP3 at all, I do know them well,” remarks Ilott. “I always enjoy taking a win at the Red Bull Ring, so I am looking forward to next weekend.”

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Podium success for Ilott on GP3 debut

 

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Barcelona – Ferrari Academy Driver Callum Ilott kicked off his 2018 season with a podium on his debut in the GP3 Series Championship

Ilott, racing for the first time for ART Grand Prix, took a third place in Saturday’s Feature race; the curtain-raiser to the FIA F1 race weekend at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.  Combined with a seventh place in Sunday’s wet sprint race, Ilott now sits fourth in the championship.

“Coming into the weekend, my goals were to learn as much as possible about the car in race conditions, whilst banking the points,” says Ilott. “To finish my first main feature race on the podium, first-time out was a good feeling.”

Ilott, who made a good getaway from fourth, had moved up to third on the first lap and then proceeded to hunt down his team mate Hubert. Having closed the gap, Ilott passed Hubert on lap 12 to take second place on the run down to the first corner.

 

“Once I  moved up to third, I focused on consistently closing the gap on Anthoine and with DRS and maybe using slightly more of the tyres in the first half of the race, I closed in and passed him.  The tyres did drop off just at the end, so it became a little harder for me, and Anthoine regained the place,” explains Ilott. “But it was good clean racing which is what it’s all about and we both enjoyed the tussle. I learned a lot about the tyres and working with the dirty air behind a car in a race setting, which is a big contrast to when you are testing.”

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“A podium for my first race is a solid start to the season and hopefully I can show more of my true pace next time out.”

Sunday’s reverse grid race saw the drivers face mixed tracks conditions and Ilott got away well from the lights on the greasy track. “The wet sprint race was always going to be more challenging with me not yet knowing how the GP3 car behaves in those wet race conditions,” explains Ilott. “In hindsight I should have pushed harder initially.  The plan to save the tyres for a later push backfired unfortunately, what with the multiple safety cars. Then the combination of the set up and the rapidly drying track meant I just didn’t have the traction at the end of the race. There are definitely things I would have done differently, but the key is to learn from the mistakes and build from here.”

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“There’s lots more to come as I build my knowledge of the GP3 car and it’s a long season ahead,” says Ilott. “It’s good to finally be back racing after such a long winter. The tracks we have coming up next are where I have won before and plan to do so again.”

The next round of the series will again support the FIA F1 World Championship and take place at Paul Ricard in France next month.

ART Grand Prix signs Callum Ilott for 2018 GP3 Championship

 

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Ferrari Academy Driver Callum Ilott joins GP3’s most successful team for 2018 campaign

ART Grand Prix has signed British rising star Callum Ilott to drive for the team in the 2018 GP3 championship. The announcement comes just weeks after the 19 year old, who took a dominant win of Macau’s Qualification Race at the FIA F3 World Cup, was confirmed as the first-ever British member of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA).

“Together with the FDA, we made the decision to do GP3 with ART and I’m really happy with this as the first step in our partnership,” says Ilott who tested with his new team at the official GP3 test in Abu Dhabi last week.

Ilott joins the French squad with a strong pedigree in international racing, showcased most recently with a commanding race win at the Macau Grand Prix street circuit.  With multiple karting championship wins to his name and the European Karting Championship title in 2014, Ilott had an unusual debut in single seater racing jumping directly from karting to F3 at age 16.  Having secured twelfth, sixth and then fourth in consecutive F3 Championship years, Ilott wrapped up his F3 2017 campaign with seven wins, twelve podiums and eleven pole positions.

“I am really happy to welcome Callum in the team,” says Sébastien Philippe, president of ART Grand Prix. “He showed during his young career that he has a very interesting potential. We have no doubt at all that he has all the assets needed to fight for the title in 2018.”

With a record seven Teams’ titles in GP3, the French ART Grand Prix squad is the most successful outfit in the series which will support nine rounds of the 2018 Formula One World Championship.

“ART is a very professional team with a proven track record in GP3 and I am hugely excited to start working with them,” adds Ilott. “To be selected by ART for one of its much coveted seats is a real privilege.  I am really looking forward to a new car, new tracks and new challenges and showing ART what I can do,” concludes Ilott.

The first race of the 2018 season takes place on the 11-13th May as the opener for the F1 weekend at Barcelona, with the series culminating at the Yas Marina track in November.

Ilott signs off European Championship campaign with dominant win

Crushing display in Race Two at Hockenheim sees Ilott win by over 11 seconds

A stunning victory at the final round of the FIA European F3 Championship saw Callum Ilott once again reach the top step of the podium as the FIA European F3 championship concluded at the Hockenheimring in Germany. The victory, Ilott’s sixth of the season, was a highlight of the weekend that ultimately saw Ilott finish fourth overall in the Championship standings and help his team Prema, to be crowned Teams’ champion.

The weekend started well for the Hertfordshire teenager as he headed the free practice sessions before notching up two pole positions. The latter, Ilott’s tenth in 2017, meant he had secured 33 percent of the pole positions on offer this season. In the battle for pole for Race 3, Ilott was just pipped by team mate Maxi Gunther and would line up alongside the German on the front row.

Race 1 saw Ilott get away well from pole position but Joel Eriksson got a good tow from the Brit to get past just before the Spitzkehre hairpin. Ilott immediately fought back but he was then hit by Lando Norris. Slowed by the contact, which allowed Ferdinand Habsburg to find a way past the two scrapping Brits, Ilott had to settle for bringing the car home in fourth.

As the daylight faded ahead of Race 2 on Saturday, Ilott once again led the field as the lights went out. This time his challengers had no answer to Ilott’s searing pace as he started to build a commanding advantage from the off. By lap two, Ilott had pulled out half a second over team mate Gunther and then delivered a flurry of quick laps to extend the gap beyond any doubt. At the end of the race, Ilott was an incredible 11.3 seconds ahead having secured the fastest lap that was a staggering four tenths quicker than anyone else. “It was one of my best races in F3,” says Ilott. “There was a slight issue with the brakes at the start but they soon settled down and the car then felt fantastic. I could consistently and comfortably lap at a pace which made the difference.” The result, together with his team mates in second and third, ensured that Ilott’s Prema team secured the Teams Championship for a record seventh consecutive time.

Race 3 on Sunday morning was a less satisfactory outing for Ilott. Unusually for the BRDC Superstar, he was slow off the start and as the pack funnelled into Turn One, Ilott dropped down the order and was sixth by Turn Two. The resilient Ilott once again mounted a comeback drive. After a Full Course Yellow neutralised the race, Ilott closed the gap to Jake Hughes and after the restart, forced Hughes into a mistake at the hairpin that Ilott was able to capitalise on to get the place. Ilott then pulled away from Hughes to come home fifth. “The lights took a little longer than I expected to change so although I initially got away well, the revs dropped and I was swallowed up by the pack and my race was really compromised,” explains Ilott.

As a gesture of appreciation to the Italian team that has run Ilott through the season, he gifted his signed Race 2 Trophy to the Prema squad. “It is a fantastic, family team and I love racing with them,” adds Ilott. “Together we had aimed for higher in the championship but we endured some exceptional circumstances through the year that prevented us from having the consistency needed for a title shot. Lando Norris and his Carlin team did a very good job and I must congratulate them on their success. I look forward to facing him and other rivals from the championship in the years to come. We did however win the Teams’ Championship and I am proud to have played my part in Prema becoming a record breaker.”

Ilott secures his fifth win of the season at Red Bull Ring

Domination and disappointment; Ilott experiences highs and lows at the Red Bull Ring

A crushing victory on Saturday was the highlight of a rollercoaster weekend for Callum Ilott in the penultimate round of the FIA European F3 championship. Friday’s free practice at the Red Bull Ring had seen Ilott top the times,  a significant turnaround for the Prema Team from the previous Nürburgring round.  Ilott carried that strong pace into the first qualifying session and was consistently among the fastest runners before edging ahead of team mate Maxi Gunther in the dying moments with a time that was 0.016 seconds faster. The team’s joy at locking out the front row was short-lived when it identified significant damage had been inflicted on Ilott’s chassis and it would not be fit to race the next day. Prema made the decision to switch the chassis meaning the team’s mechanics were in for a long night to install Ilott’s existing engine into the new tub, thereby avoiding a grid penalty.  With the new car finally assembled at 4am, Ilott was quick to praise the team and returned the gesture by plying the mechanics with Espressos throughout the next day. “The circuit’s kerbs are notorious for inflicting damage and luckily we came prepared just in case. The guys worked really hard overnight to make sure I was back out on track,” says Ilott. “The least I could do was re-fuel them with the strongest coffee I could find.”

With no track time to test the rebuilt car, Ilott headed to the pole spot on the grid not knowing how its set up would suit the Spielberg track. Sporting a different clutch pedal to his regular chassis, Ilott made a cautious getaway from pole leaving him open to attack from the fast-starting Joel Eriksson. Eriksson harried Ilott through the opening lap looking for a way past but Ilott remained composed as he got to grips with a chassis he hadn’t driven since May. Never headed, Ilott was able to capitalise on improving tyre performance and started to build an advantage and by lap ten, he was already a second ahead. With apparent ease, Ilott continued to stretch his lead and by the flag he had built up a cushion of nearly two seconds over the Swede. Following pole, the dominant win was also topped by securing the fastest lap of the race, ensuring a clean sweep for the Brit.

“A win was the best way to thank the guys who worked until the early hours to make sure I could take up my pole grid slot,” adds Ilott. The win also closed the gap in the championship standings with Ilott moving back into third overall before Sunday’s double header.

Starting fourth for Sunday morning’s dry race, Ilott was again cautious off the line, slipping briefly to fifth before swiftly moving back up to fourth after running side by side with fellow Brit Jake Hughes. Ilott closed the gap to the third-placed Force India F1-backed driver Nikita Mazepin and began to put him under pressure, as the pairing left the other Force India-supported driver, Jehan Daruvala, behind with a 1.1 seconds by lap seven. Ilott worked to reduce the gap to Mazepin, and pressure him from close behind, but, hindered by brakes that were prone to overheating, Ilott finished fourth as the highest-placed Prema driver.

Sunday’s final race saw Ilott start third. A tricky getaway with the unfamiliar clutch left Ilott covering off Mazepin’s line but lacking the momentum as the train moved through Turn One. having lost ground to Mazepin and Aron,  Ilott then went on the offensive at the series of quick left hand turns halfway round the lap. Running initially three abreast, Ilott then passed Mazepin and stayed alongside Aron on the outside.  As the pair took Turn Seven, Aron not seeing Ilott to his right, ran wide, clattering into Ilott and forcing him off the track.  The ensuing wild ride over the gravel launched the car into the air and the damage was too great for Ilott to be able to continue the race and was forced to retire.

“I’m really gutted not to score points in the last race as up until then, we’d had a good weekend and I had closed the gap to second in the championship. Finishing in the top three is now going to be a little tougher but I enjoy Hockenheim and love a challenge.  Despite being forced to retire in Race 3, I outscored all my team mates again and I am really pleased that we also increased Prema’s 90 point lead in the Team Championship, which we are aiming to win for the seventh time.”

Ilott himself now has 297 points, standing 36 points from third and 42 points from second in the title standings. The final round will see the championship head back to Germany on the 14th and 15th October competing at Hockenheim.

Ilott delivers a trio of top four finishes at the Nürburgring

Consistency delivers the points needed to challenge for a top three place in the championship

With a third place topping a trio of top four places at the Nürburgring this weekend, Callum Ilott closed the gap to third overall in the 2017 FIA F3 championship battle. At a track where the whole PREMA Powerteam struggled to match the pace of its rivals in both the wet and dry, Ilott was the best-scoring driver in the team; amassing 39 points whilst his three team mates all combined, managed just 12. Crucially, Ilott sliced 32 points from the gap to third place in the championship and is now just five points and within striking distance of rival Joel Eriksson.

Friday’s qualifying, held in archetypal and changeable Eifel conditions saw the British driver encounter a mystifying mix of pace over the lap and an unusual mechanical issue when his gearbox slipped into neutral. The quick-thinking Ilott managed to get the car going again and found clear track space to go on to be the quickest driver in the second and third sectors of the track. This contrasted with being over a second slower in the first sector of the lap to leave Ilott third on the grid.

The opening encounter on Saturday saw the action again take place in wet conditions. Ilott made a better start to get up into second but was immediately under pressure as he initially struggled with grip relative to the others around.  Jake Hughes enjoying a competitive weekend, was able to move past and then Joey Mawson slipped past on lap five. Undaunted, Ilott fought hard to claw back the gap and mount a challenge. After a Full Course Yellow was thrown for an incident with Pedro Piquet, Ilott was able to attack the Australian before an attempt at the final chicane saw Ilott forced to dive down the escape road as Mawson also cut the chicane. On the penultimate lap, Ilott was back and challenging again and managed to edge ahead before being squeezed through the chicane. The pair emerged side by side but having lost momentum, Ilott was passed by fifth-placed Tadasuke Makino at the line. With Makino however penalised for an earlier infringement, Ilott was elevated to fourth in the official results.

Qualifying for Races Two and Three saw Ilott leave it right to the dying moments of the session to claim two front-row slots, including pole for Race Three.  Struggling for grip during most of the qualifying session Ilott was down in 19th position with a couple of minutes left on the clock.  With his Prema teammates also suffering badly, Ilott managed to find a way to deliver two good laps when it counted. “Many of us were left scratching our heads after qualifying with the times and positions of a number of drivers not where you would normally expect them to be,” says Ilott. “I was lucky that my last two laps came together as it was looking really bad for me up until then.”

It was cool but dry for the first race on Sunday morning. Air temperatures hovered just above 11 degrees as Ilott made a good getaway to attack pole sitter Jake Hughes on the run down to Turn One. Ilott, like his team mates, once again suffered an early lack of grip that led to him running wide at the end of lap two and into clutches of Lando Norris. Powerless to prevent him from getting past, Ilott was down to third position. With the tyres deteriorating after just two laps of competition, Ilott focussed on holding on to the podium place and drove skilfully to maintain a buffer to Honda protégé Makino. “Having such severe tyre wear, so early on in the race, meant that was one of the hardest races this season,” says Ilott. “We just lacked the pace to fight for the win this time yet we did manage to grab 15 points at a time when we really needed them. That was really important when we didn’t have the speed.”

Sunday’s final encounter underlined the difficulties faced throughout the entire weekend. Ilott again made a good getaway from pole but an early safety car meant Ilott had rivals Norris and Hughes right behind. Ilott made a good restart but again was beset by an early lack of grip that was needed to pull away. Norris was able to take advantage of extended track limits by running completely off the track at Turn Four to get past and then with no answer to the traction of the Hitech cars out of the corners, both Hughes and his team-mate Ralf Aron also passed Ilott. Nursing his frustration, Ilott then managed the situation over Jehan Daruvala, pushing when he could to hold onto fourth in what became a quiet race for the young British driver.

“This weekend in either the wet or dry, we just couldn’t compete on pace and it was all about playing the consistency game and getting as many points as possible,” adds Ilott. “Despite some frustration from the races, I’m now just five points from third and I have taken 33 points off the gap to second and we still have six races to go. I’m still fighting!”

The championship now heads to the Red Bull Ring in two weeks’ time, a track where Ilott scored a win, second and fourth last year.

Dutch courage delivers another F3 victory for Ilott

Dominant win tops Ilott’s Dutch weekend

British racing driver Callum Ilott secured his fourth victory of the 2017 season with a commanding lights to flag victory of 7.3 seconds for Race Two at the Zandvoort circuit. This victory highlighted what might have been a great weekend had qualifying results better reflected Ilott’s competitive speed.

With securing a good grid position critical for success at the Zandvoort track, Ilott was right in the mix for pole in Friday’s Qualifying on a circuit where many struggled for grip on parts of the newly resurfaced track. Underlining this, on his final push lap, Ilott was over three tenths up and looking good for pole, only for traffic at the hairpin to stymy his opportunity, leaving him a disappointing fifth for Saturday’s race.

In dry conditions for Race One, Ilott made a good getaway and sweeping around the outside at Turn One, was swiftly up to fourth. Ilott’s start was however stunted by an early safety car to recover the upturned David Beckmann from the gravel. On the restart, compromised by his track position and wary of not making contact with his teammate Maxi Gunther, rival Habsburg was able to retake the place from Ilott. Undaunted, Ilott tried valiantly to get back up to fourth and a daring move around the outside the Tarzanbocht only just failed to stick, leaving Ilott fifth at the end with a haul of 10 points.

Qualifying for Races Two and Three on Saturday afternoon saw Ilott fighting once again for a front row slot. Yellow flags and then a red flag were shown following an off track excursion by the Carlin driver Jehan Deravala leaving time on the clock for only two fast laps. Ilott immediately put in a lap good enough for P2 and on his last lap improved in both sector one and sector two before being forced to lift for yellow flags shown as Beckmann left the track. The lap ending over four tenths down on his previous best.

The FIA stewards subsequently investigated more than half the drivers for not slowing under yellows flags and imposed 2 place grid penalties and 2 license penalty points on those they felt had not lift and slowed sufficiently.  This led to a flurry of penalties and Ilott, who had, according to the stewards “made a concerted effort and a visible and audible lift off the throttle,” was promoted to pole for Race Two. Knowing that a clean start was crucial for victory, Ilott ensured he delivered and built a substantial lead ahead of the pack within the first four corners. An early safety car threatened to derail Ilott’s best intentions but ultimately he was never headed in a lights-to-flag masterclass, pulling a half second gap on the majority of the laps to take the chequered flag.

“I knew that the restart was important, I pushed as early as I could, accelerating from the last chicane,” says Ilott. “The team gave me a great car and I knew I had the pace to win.” In the end, Ilott finished a massive seven seconds ahead of his rival and topped off his success with the race’s fastest lap.

After the success of Race Two, there was disappointment in the final encounter with Ilott unable to capitalise on a great opening lap.  Ilott started from seventh on the grid having had his second best qualifying lap deleted for improving his time in sector two despite the stewards acknowledging he had lifted to slow right at the end of the sector.  He then made another superb getaway to leapfrog to fifth before having to pit to replace a loose front wing. The stop cost Ilott any real chance of reaching the points paying positions but undaunted and ready to capitalise on any potential safety car, Ilott pushed hard, claiming another fastest lap before pitting again and forcing an early retirement.

“Another strong victory is fantastic but I’m gutted that we couldn’t make the most of the pace we had to get more in Holland,” adds Ilott. “It’s a mark of how far we have come and how tough this season is that one win isn’t enough both for the championship and for me personally. We have however, closed the gap to third in the championship and I won’t give up on my original season goal of winning the championship. Nürburgring is next and as the scene of my first podium, it’s a favourite track of mine. It will be an all-out push to close the gap further.”

The championship heads next to the iconic German venue on the 9th and 10th September.