As a member of the fabled Ferrari Driver Academy, Callum Ilott had high expectations for the GP3 Series weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Ferrari’s home track, and the Briton performed strongly all weekend and was able to stand on the podium in both races.
Unfortunately, the nineteen-year-old lost one of those top three finishes due to a technical infringement out of his control, but it was still a very strong weekend for Ilott, although he was none too pleased about the defensive driving of one of his ART Grand Prix team-mates and with the apparent lack of punishment for drivers cutting through the run-off at turn one.
“I put in two strong performances this weekend which was great to do at my other ‘home’ track and I am happy with the job I did,” said Ilott. “Having worked quite a bit to improve my qualifying, it was disappointing not to get on the front row as it sets you up for the Feature Race, but I was happy with my speed in qualifying.
“I wanted to have a clean race and was cautious, knowing it was going to be tricky. The first four cars didn’t make it around Turn One. I guess anything goes on an opening lap in those conditions.”
The team-mate in question that he found himself fighting with was Nikita Mazepin, and the Russian left the track on more than one occasion to maintain his position, although he was finally able to dispatch him on lap sixteen and record his seventh podium result of 2018.
“I focussed on keeping it on track, including having to run off the track at one time to avoid getting hit,” said Ilott. “Once I was clear, I could start to close the gap to third.
“Living in Italy now means Monza is like a home race to me; a decent result here means a lot.”
The Briton was again embroiled in a battle with Mazepin in Sunday’s second race, with small contact being made on the opening lap that Ilott was worried would end his race.
“As the cars funnelled into the chicane, my teammates touched and then virtually stopped in front of me,” says Ilott. “I had nowhere to go and touched Nikita in my avoidance.
“I expected my race would be over with front wing damage but this time the luck was with me and I could continue with only minor nose damage.”
Ilott drove strongly thereafter in Sunday’s second race and passed title rival Anthoine Hubert on track on lap thirteen, only for both he and the Frenchman to be disqualified later on for tyre pressure irregularities, meaning his team-mate has a twenty-nine-point advantage in the championship heading to the Sochi Autodrom at the end of September.
“I loved that race and worked really hard for the result,” said the Briton. “Obviously the eventual exclusion later in the day meant I lost valuable points.
“Errors can happen and there’s nothing we can do now, so we’ve now got to put the setback behind us, take comfort from the performance on track and fight hard in the final two rounds. It’s not over yet.”