Callum Ilott: The Trajectory of Talent

Callum Ilott is a phenomenon both on and off track. On track, he brings a lot of experience, skill, speed, passion, and talent with him; off track, he is approachable, likable, kind, and a pleasure to be around. He has already shown Europe what he’s capable of and will now show the USA what he can do.

Written by Mees Drijgers

October 17, 2021

Like many other racing drivers, Callum Ilott started his career in karts; he was introduced to karting by his dad when he was just seven years old and made sure to secure his racing license as soon as he turned eight. Ilott first enjoyed domestic success at karting tracks in the UK; in 2011, he started winning his first races in Formula Kart Stars, and by the age of twelve, he had won the under 16s Formula Kart Stars British Championship. 

Young Callum Ilott (Photo via @callum_ilott on Twitter)

After his successes on home soil, Ilott went on to score internationally; he competed in multiple European karting competitions and is considered one of the more successful karting drivers of his generation. During the 3-year period of his international karting career, he finished third, second, or first in multiple series. In 2012, he was voted the youngest ever WSK Driver of the Year. In his last year of karting, he won the senior CIK-FIA European Karting Championship and finished P3 overall in the WSK Champions Cup, signing off with a bang. 

 

At sixteen, he was moved into single-seaters on behalf of the Red Bull Junior Team by Dr. Helmut Marko; this made him the first driver to be taken directly from karts into the FIA F3 Championship. In his first year in FIA F3, he finished twelfth in the standings. Some of Ilott’s highlights include being the only driver to be classified as a finisher in all thirty-three races of the season, scoring his maiden podium, and finishing third out of the six drivers associated with the Carlin Motorsport Team, finishing behind current F1 drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell. 

 

In his second year, Ilott improved drastically; he finished sixth in the overall standings and scored more points than all of his teammates combined. He was the youngest driver to achieve multiple wins and multiple pole positions and won his first races in France and Austria. In his third season, Ilott finished fourth overall in the championship, with six race wins, 11 podiums, and scored more pole positions than any other driver with a total of 10. He competed with current F1 driver Mick Schumacher and F2 championship contender Guanyu Zhou, outscoring both of them.

 

In 2018, Ilott became a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and moved to Maranello. He signed with ART Grand Prix to race in GP3 and was able to fight for the title until the penultimate round of the season. He finished third overall, narrowly finishing behind his teammates Nikita Mazepin and the late Anthoine Hubert, scoring two race wins and securing a run of seven consecutive podium finishes. After one year in GP3, Ilott moved on to the FIA F2 Championship, where he drove a less competitive car in his rookie year but still scored two third places and finished eleventh overall. 

Callum Ilott driving during an FP1 for Alfa Romeo (Photo via @callum_ilott on Twitter)

After being part of the Ferrari Driver Academy for a year, Ilott earned his first F1 test in 2019, driving the Alfa Romeo C38 during the in-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. In 2020, he drove for UNI-Virtuosi, teaming up with Guanyu Zhou for a second time. Ilott was a strong contender for the championship but ended up losing out to Mick Schumacher. He became the 2020 Vice-Champion, with three wins, six podiums, and again outscoring every other driver with a total of five pole positions.

Throughout the year, Ilott experienced some great F1-related opportunities: he linked up with Ferrari at Fiorano, was supposed to drive an FP1 session for Haas F1 Team at the Eifel GP, which got canceled because of the weather conditions, and tested the Alfa Romeo in December’s Young Driver Test. Though 2020 earned Ilott many great opportunities and remarkable results, that is unfortunately where his F1 dream ended for now, as it was announced in November that he would not be driving in F1 in the following year.

 

In 2021, Ilott continued to show his versatility, ability to adapt to different machinery, and speed. He became associated with not one but two Formula 1 teams, being announced as Ferrari’s official Test Driver for the 2021 season after December’s Young Driver Test, and joining Alfa Romeo as their official Reserve Driver from April 2021. In February 2021, it was announced that Ilott would compete in the 2021 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup for Iron Lynx, together with Antonio Fuoco and Davide Rigon. 

Callum Ilott with fellow Iron Lynx drivers Matteo Cressoni and Rino Mastronardi accepting third place at the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans (Photo via @callum_ilott on Twitter)

He made his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Iron Lynx in the No. 80 Ferrari 488 GTE, teaming up with Matteo Cressoni and Rino Mastronardi; they scored a podium in their LMGTE Am class, finishing third. At the beginning of September 2021, Ilott tested for IndyCar team Juncos Hollinger Racing; it was later announced that he would drive three races for the team during the 2021 IndyCar season. 

 

On the 24th of September, it was announced Ilott had signed with the team for an entire IndyCar season in 2022. The team has been active in both the Indy Pro 2000 Championship since 2009, which used to be called the Pro Mazda Championship until 2018, and in the Indy Lights category since 2012 under the name Juncos Racing. They competed in IndyCar from 2017 till 2019; however, due to the difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic brought, they could not participate in the 2020 season. A collaboration with Brad Hollinger brought the team back to the IndyCar series in 2021; they initially signed F2 Vice-Champion and racing talent Callum Ilott for only one race, but this was soon extended to the three remaining races of the season. 

Callum Ilott with team owner Ricardo Juncos (Photo via @callum_ilott on Twitter)

Though F1 will be losing a bright young talent, IndyCar, specifically Juncos Hollinger Racing, has gained one. With Ilott’s full-time 2022 contract, Juncos Hollinger Racing now has a wicked fast, talented, and experienced driver on board who will be able to get the team to where they want to be. Off-track, Ilott is a great PR presence; on social media, he often engages with fans on a personal level, bringing his humor to both Twitter and Instagram. He does, however, also use his platform to discuss serious matters, having previously been very outspoken about the safety of the drivers. Not only will Ilott be bringing a lot off track, he will be taking his skills and speed with him on track, and he will also be taking a sizeable European fanbase with him. He has garnered more interest in the IndyCar Series as a whole since the moment he was announced, with his fans willing to support him every step of the way, wherever he goes. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mees was introduced to the world of F1 by one of her friends in July 2020 and hasn’t missed a race weekend since. Her favourite teams are McLaren and Williams, but since starting to watch F2 in 2021, she now also actively supports Lawson, Vips, Piastri, and Zhou. She recently got her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Culture, and is currently studying Translation and English Literature and Culture. When she’s not watching motorsport, she’s either watching football matches (preferably Real Madrid), reading a book, or watching streams on Twitch.

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