Hello Badgers! Sorry it’s been a while, I’ve had a crazy summer this year and have barely had chance to catch my breath! Anyway I hope everyone’s got a great tan and has enjoyed it as much I have. Let me talk you through it…

No Spa Treatment

My summer really got underway at Round 7 of this year’s FIA F3 Championship at Spa-Francorchamps, however, it was far from a perfect start. A sensor failure left me stranded in the pits for first qualifying and with that, tyre issues and three very wet laps, it was a 20th grid position.

Race one was no better. As per usual, it was raining A LOT at Spa. We started behind the safety car and only got the green flag with under half of the 33-minute race left to run. Visibility was awful but I made a few places up until another safety car at the end of the race meant P16 was as good as it got.

Race two would be slightly better as we started P6 and crossed the line P4 at the end of the first lap. Car balance problems meant I really had to fight the car for the rest of the race though, and the net result was P5 behind my teammate Anthoine Hubert.

6 Callum Ilott (GBR, Van Amersfoort Racing, Dallara F312 - Mercedes-Benz), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 6, race 1, Zandvoort (DEU), July 2016 *** Local Caption *** +++ www.suer.photography +++ copyright: suer.photo / Thomas Suer +++
Photo credit: www.suer.photography +++ copyright: suer.photo / Thomas Suer +++

The third and final race on Saturday summed up the whole weekend for us. A strong start allowed me to get up to P2 from P4 off the line, however, two corners later it was curtains. At the end of the Kemmel Straight I found myself on the inside of Ben Barnicoat who was out wide. Going into Les Combes, seemingly forgetting what Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had taught us in 2014 at that same corner; two into one does not go and there was contact! I spun, he got a puncture, and a few laps later we were both out the race with damage.

Hardly the perfect Spa getaway, but we go again…

Masters of F3

I think one of the worst parts about a bad weekend on-track is waiting for the next race weekend to put things right, so when we got to Zandvoort a few weeks after Spa it was a real relief. We set to work straight away and thought we had hit the sweet spot on car set up, which meant I could go out and blitz both practice and qualifying.

Qualifying left us on pole for the first race – however on the grid the start light procedure was different to the one used earlier in the season at Zandvoort in the regular FIA F3 round, and Joel Eriksson got the jump and pulled clear. I stuck behind Joel for the whole race but couldn’t find a way past. Zandvoort; a great, narrow and flowing circuit to drive, but very hard to race on in a modern F3 car!

2016-mf3-zandvoort-suer-4619
Photo credit: www.suer.photography +++ copyright: suer.photo / Thomas Suer +++

The Masters of F3 Race is one the biggest of the F3 events of the season, and with the work we had put in all weekend I really wanted to grab a win. Sadly, away from the line I got pinned against the pit wall and wedged in on the run down to turn one, allowing Niko Kari and Eriksson to disappear out front. A lap later and Sergio Sette Camara passed me too and, despite sticking with him and pulling alongside on a few occasions, we had to settle for P4. What was it I said about Zandvoort?

Nürburgring

The next round saw us arrive at the Nürburgring fifth in the title race and looking to take some big points at my favourite circuit on the calendar. I got a podium there in 2015 and was confident we could get on the top step this time around.

Annoyingly, qualifying was a struggle for the team; none of the VAR cars seemed to work well there, however I did manage to qualify best of the bunch for each race, lining up P7, P8 and P6.

Race one was an odd one –  I made my way through to P6 on the opening lap and had settled into a groove behind Cassidy. Late on in the race, for some reason his car switched to Virtual Safety Car mode and he temporarily slowed. I saw the opportunity and made a move around the outside of both him and Ralf Aron before being forced out on to some very slippery artificial turf. After some scary (but cool) opposite lock action I got back on track and ahead of Aron in P5 where we eventually finished.

It'www.suer.photography +++ copyright: suer.photo / Thomas Suer +++
Photo credit: www.suer.photography +++ copyright: suer.photo / Thomas Suer +++

Saturday’s second race saw me get to know Cassidy a little bit too well at the chicane while fighting at the front. I had the edge on him but he gave me nowhere to go on entry and we made contact, leaving me with damage and him out of the race. From there I went into full damage limitation mode and brought the car home in P7.

The final race was much more like it for us as we made good use of two fresh tyres and some excellent setup changes. I managed to see off Eriksson and Cassidy (this time without any drama) on the exit of the Mercedes turns to take a well-earned P4 and grab some much-needed points in the title race.

Sun, sea, and MotoGP

Myself and the VAR guys have had some really challenging race weekends this summer which has made it even more important to reflect and unwind away from the track. Luckily for me, that meant a week away in the South of France with friends and family. I have to say, though, despite the sunbeds and swimming pools I still I had to stop myself from ‘borrowing’ the hire car to do a lap of Monaco!

I did manage to get some track time in, though. After the Nürburgring I got the chance to grab a lap around the Nordschleife, which was a dream come true. It’s such a thrill to drive around a track that has so much history and some of the world’s best corners, even if it was in a road car. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to do the 24 Hour race there one day…

As ever I’ve been glued to Formula 1 whenever I’ve had the chance, but another passion of mine is MotoGP, and so it was great to head to the British GP in August. I’m part of BRDC Rising Stars young driver programme and I am really lucky to be able to use its facilities at Silverstone. Valentino Rossi was as much as a hero to me growing up as any driver was and to watch The Doctor at work was insane. Racing drivers are brave, but the bikers hanging off their two-wheeled bits of metal at 200mph at Copse just blew my mind. I’ll stick to four wheels for now I think!

That’s it for now, folks. I’m back on track at Imola for the next round of FIA F3 at the end of this week. Cheers guys!

You can tweet Callum via @Callum_Ilott