Callum Ilott made the most of a last-minute opportunity to gain valuable experience of the FIA F2 category, impressing his team principal and engineers with his performance and approach at the British Grand Prix event. With the deal only completed on Tuesday, Ilott spent Wednesday completing a seat fit and digesting the F2 team and regulation manuals before heading out on track. Thursday's single 45 minute practice session was the only opportunity for Ilott therefore to learn the car and complete his six ‘push’ laps with the hard option Pirelli tyres.
Friday's 30 minute qualifying session was on the faster soft Pirelli tyre which is good for only one push qualifying lap. On his first set of tyres Ilott delivered a credible 13th position as he quickly adjusted to the different grip of the softer tyre. Ilott attacked his second qualifying run from the off. However a damaged element on the rear wing meant the improvement in time was not what it could have been. Ilott secured 15th overall, four tenths quicker than his next rival.
“It did feel good to be so close to the top 10 despite a problem with the wing that caused the element to drop under load, upsetting the balance,” says Ilott. “A loss of downforce at Silverstone is not helpful for lap times but does make the high speed sections even more fun to drive."
Saturday’s race underlined the value of grabbing this weekend’s opportunity with Ilott learning the requisite skills in real race conditions. “The hand clutch was totally new to me and after the start was aborted I then also had an issue on the grid and had to start from the pitlane,” adds Ilott. “On any normal weekend I would have been really frustrated starting so far back but we came into this one with our eyes open, knowing I was here to learn as we went along.” Ilott used the remainder of Race 1 to get to grips with intricacies of the tyre management in the category that sees performance vary dramatically from lap to lap and also to experiment with getting maximum pace from the car. “Not being in contention and with the team having had an issue during my pit stop that also cost a chunk of time, there was no need to disrupt the championship contenders so I focussed on learning as much as I could about the car. That meant I could try alternative braking and lines and also see what was working for the front runners.”
Just hours before Sunday's F1 race, Ilott was competing in the 21 lap Sprint race. Ilott got away cleanly despite not having the time to complete the full start procedure. “Starting right at the back, the lights changed just as I got to my slot,” says Ilott. "Certainly another reason to make sure I start further up the grid next time. I made up a number of places on the opening lap but perhaps was a touch over cautious in a couple of places as some of the more experienced drivers around me seemed to be going more slowly than I expected given the conditions."
As the laps ticked down Ilott continued to threaten Deletraz ahead whilst keeping Fuoco at bay behind. A late safety car bunched the field together with Ilott making the most of the restart to move up two places. With Oliver Rowland receiving a penalty, Ilott was promoted to 14th.
Ilott’s approach to the weekend enthralled Trident’s team principal Giacomo Ricci, himself a former competitor in the category. “Callum impressed us with his professional attitude through the weekend,” says Ricci. “I’m really happy with his debut. Despite his young age and minimal experience in F2, he immediately had strong pace and good tyre management.”
“I’ve really enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to get a brief taste of a category I want to be in the near future,” adds Ilott. “I’d like to thank Fayre Oaks, JBR Capital, Bank of Montreal, Crystal Wealth and Nick Leventis for each helping this weekend as well as Prema for allowing me to do it. F2 cars are pretty special and it’s been amazing to drive at the Grand Prix but the focus is back on F3 now and battling for the championship.”