Fourth, fifth and seventh aid Ilott’s push for third in the overall standings of the FIA European F3 Championship
Three points finishes helped Bishop Stortford’s Callum Ilott to close the gap to his nearest rivals in the FIA European F3 championship in Germany, supporting his aim of a top three finish in just his second season of car racing.
On a weekend when the whole VAR Motorsport team struggled with qualifying pace, Ilott was the quickest of the four-strong squad in each of the three qualifying sessions, lining up seventh, eighth and sixth for the three races on the 3.629km Grand Prix loop.
With the cooler morning conditions appearing to favour VAR’s set up, Saturday’s first race saw Ilott move up from seventh to sixth on the opening lap. Later in the race, second-placed Nick Cassidy’s car unexpectedly switched to Virtual Safety Car mode and he temporarily slowed, dropping him to fourth, bunching up fifth-placed Ralf Aron and Ilott. Sensing an opportunity, Ilott swept around the outside of the pair being forced wide onto the artificial grass. Ilott controlled the ensuing drift on the slippery surface and though briefly held fourth, slotted into fifth ahead of Aron and was right on the gearbox of Nick Cassidy. Ilott pushed Cassidy all the way to the flag, pressuring the Prema car into an error at the chicane but there was no way past before the end of the race. “I gave it everything but we just didn’t have any opportunities to be able to move up further,” says Ilott. “I really tried everything I could to make it harder for Nick but we just weren’t quick enough where it mattered.”
Saturday’s second race was a tougher affair when race one rival Cassidy gave Ilott no room at the chicane, forcing contact and resulting in Cassidy dropping out of the race. “I got really squeezed hard by Nick and we touched sending me off the track,” explains Ilott. “It ruined any chance of a better result for me and Nick. A real shame that had to happen.” Despite the setback Ilott made every attempt to move up the field but with a straight line speed disadvantage following the contact, Ilott couldn’t find a way through before the flag fell, finishing seventh.
With overnight revisions to the car and two fresh tyres, Ilott was intent on making the most of his favourite circuit on the F3 calendar for Sunday’s race. A stellar start from sixth saw Ilott up to fourth passing Joel Eriksson and Nick Cassidy as they exited the Mercedes turns. In a quieter race, Ilott held the position to the flag to finish comfortably ahead of Cassidy but 8.370 seconds behind eventual winner Maximilian Gunther.
With three points finishes, Ilott has now closed the gap to third-placed Cassidy in the standings and with two more race weekends left, lies just four points adrift of a podium in the overall championship. “It’s a mark of how far we have come this season that we are disappointed not to have achieved more, despite bagging three lots of points including a fourth,” concludes Ilott. “Fortunately we are staying on to test here at the Nürburgring and that will help us to try a few different things and get to the bottom of the inconsistent speed. We’ve got momentum on our side with others having issues and it’s now just four points to get the top three position that I really want.”
The next round of the championship takes place at the Imola track in Italy on the weekend of the 30th September.