In the second of his columns for Badger GP, FIA Formula 3 star Callum Ilott takes time out from racing, studying and training to talk about his last month in the spotlight – one that has seen him ride the highs and lows of motorsport, both on the track and off it.
Hello there! Hopefully by now you’ll have read my first column for Badger last month. Since my debut on Badger I’ve taken part in three more rounds of the FIA F3 championship; Hungary, around the streets of Pau, and at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
Let’s start with Hungary.
Despite having never driven around Hungary, I arrived at the Hungaroring fairly confident of picking up some more good points because the team had some good data from when the series last visited in 2014. The track has been resurfaced since then, however, and that really didn’t help us in practice. Data and new tarmac were the least of my worries, mind.
As some of you may have seen already, things got a little heated with another driver deciding to take his frustration out on me. Obviously it wasn’t the best start to the weekend. It’s important to me personally to remain professional on and off track, so I just put the shades on and tried to move on.
The rest of the weekend was a struggle, too. Most of the teams had issues with getting the tyres working during the race and we were part of that bunch. That said, a P6 finish and a P9 finish saw us pick some points up from a tough event. Coupled with troubles with my rivals and it was game on for Pau.
If you asked me I’d say racing at Pau is like riding a rollercoaster without seatbelts. I had a tough time on street circuits last year, but after the first free practice I felt confident and in control, which allowed me to smash both practice sessions to top the timesheets. That really gives you a boost as a driver, as it gives you and the team confidence heading into the rest of the weekend.
That all said, in the first qualifying session I came across a kerb, an actual kerb, and it broke my left rear pushrod. The team did a great job to get the car pretty straight and I was able to qualify P6 overall. The VAR guys did a good job and they are a team that does get on with things. I like that and we are working well this season.
Despite a few frustrating yellow flag and traffic issues in qualifying, in the races we were really quick. Race one saw me finish P5, before starting on the damp side of the grid in race two saw me fall down the order. That said, our pace was brilliant and I managed to bring it home in P3. Honestly? We had the pace to win in Pau, which is annoying, but two top 5 finishes and a podium was great damage limitation at a track where it is easy to throw it all away.
Rocking the Ring
Following a maths exam on the Wednesday, I arrived in Austria on the Thursday still with numbers flickering in my mind (Matrix style), but by the time practice came around on Friday I was back in the zone. We struggled initially with traffic and set-up, but between me and the team we made some great calls to get the car in good shape for qualifying. Initially I qualified P3 for race one, however Maximilian Günther set his fastest lap while the yellow flags were out and Joel Eriksson got his time taken away for track limits. This was going to be the theme of the weekend but I was lucky to move to pole.
Speaking of luck, my pole position and race win meant very little come Saturday; all that mattered was that Ryan Tveter, Peter Li and Pedro Piquet were OK after one of the scariest crashes I’ve ever seen. During the race I had no idea how big the crash was, but driving through the wreckage… it was the most debris I’ve ever seen on a track. I know Ryan in particular pretty well, so it was a nervy time post-race until we knew all three were OK. It’s amazing how strong these F3 cars are now and how good a job the marshals do to keep us racers safe.
I started P2 for the second race of the weekend and managed to out drag George Russell up to the first corner. I was running on my worst set of tyres for the weekend, however, and soon started falling back as they deteriorated. To make matters worse, a harsh track limits penalty left me with a five-second penalty, pushing me off the podium and down to P4. For the third race I just wanted to avoid any more penalties. I kept it calm and managed to finish P2, but it was a shame as I know there was more in the car but I had to play it strategically. It’s put us second in the championship overall which is good. I had a little smile on the podium as Dr Marko handed me the trophy….
Before the next race I’ve got one more maths A-Level exam to get out of the way, and then a summer of focusing purely on racing. Bring it on!
If you’ve been on the M6 in the past week or so you might have seen me, or a 30m pic of me, for Coventry Motofest. It’s an event where they close the ring road and let cars do demo runs, building its profile for maybe becoming street race in the future. There was so much going on there at the weekend it was great fun and I had a blast cruising around in a pretty cool looking Morgan three-wheeler owned by artist Popbangcolour. He let me drive his car but wouldn’t let me near the Aston Martin picture he was painting! It would be totally awesome to have our own street circuit venue here in the UK too and that’s what the Motofest is working towards.
Thanks for reading – I’ll be back next month to talk about how I get on at the next race in Germany, my role with the team, my training and much more. In the meantime, be sure to keep up to date with my life over on Twitter or Instagram at @callum_ilott! And if you’ve got questions, shoot them over and I’ll answer them!
Callum returns to the track on June 24-26 at the Norisring in Germany for races 13, 14 and 15 of the FIA F3 Championship.