Callum Ilott believes the blame for his restart crash with Joel Eriksson does not lie with him, although he was disappointed that neither he nor the Swede was able to see the chequered flag in the Macau Grand Prix on Sunday.
Following the early Full Course Yellow to clear up the crashed car of Marino Sato, Ilott had a good run on Eriksson heading towards Lisboa, only for the SJM Theodore Racing by Prema and Motopark with VEB drivers to clash, ending the race of the Swede and ruining the chances of the Brit, who was forced to pit due to a puncture.
Ilott felt the penalty handed to him was unjustified, and that had the camera on his own car been available when the stewards made their decision, they should have come to a different conclusion.
“When we got the green after the Full Course Yellow, I got the jump on Joel at the restart and I carried so much more speed on the flat out straight that I couldn’t just sit behind him,” said Ilott.
“I left plenty of room on the overtake but you can see from the onboard that Joel was still drifting left as I was ahead and starting to prepare for the corner. I thought I was clear and had minimal space next to the wall as we came to Lisboa. He kept his foot in and so we touched.
“My onboard video wasn’t available during the stewards hearing and does not support the decision to give me a post-race penalty. It wasn’t meant to be an aggressive move but I was ahead and Joel for whatever reason chose not to back off.
“I rate Joel very highly and am disappointed for him and for me that neither of us finished.”
Whereas Sunday’s race ended in disappointment, Ilott’s Qualifying race performance was sublime, with the Briton passing Eriksson a few laps from the end and then pulling out a lead of more than seven seconds.
“I got a good start and by just after the halfway point of the race I had so much more pace than Joel that it was just a case of waiting for the right moment to execute the pass,” said Ilott, the first Briton ever to join the Ferrari Driver Academy.
“Once I was past I did push hard initially to secure a gap and was probably driving on the edge. Then I just settled into a rhythm that felt good.”
Ilott was full of praise for the car his team gave him throughout the weekend in Macau, and at the end of the Qualifying race, he was able to relax and bring the car home for the victory.
“The guys gave me a fantastic car,” said Ilott. “I just knew that once I got clean air it would be unbeatable and it was great to finally have clean track to just put the laps together and show what we could do.
“It was going so well that the guys were onto me on the radio asking me calm it down, so I slowed a little but I was still building the lead. It was all quite relaxed.
“It felt really good to give the ‘home team’ and our fans, sponsors and supporters a strong win. I’d had a fantastic week with the team and its sponsors, doing lots of fun things, it was great to return their support with a win.”
Ilott insists the Macau experience remains a special one, and signing off the year with a victory at the circuit was perfect, especially as Sunday proved once again that the circuit is unforgiving should mistakes be made.
“For me Macau is the ultimate race on the F3 calendar,” said Ilott. “Coming back here and taking the win on Saturday meant a lot to me. That victory was also the perfect way to sign off my final weekend in F3 in 2017.
“As we saw in Sunday’s race, Macau is challenging and unforgiving and getting a win here is something special.”