Callum Ilott – New Year, New Team

Racing Driver Callum Ilott continues his rise through the motorsport ranks after a thrilling debut year of F2, and we look ahead to what 2020 will hold for the young Brit.

How has it felt to move up a level to F2?

Callum Ilott: “It has been a bit of a whirlwind really. It’s one of those where the time just disappears and I can’t quite believe that I’m sitting here now with a year’s worth of experience of Formula 2 under my belt. As with any step up the ladder, there has been plenty to learn and plenty of hard work but positively there’s plenty that we can now reflect on at the end of the season and be really happy about.

Silverstone top ten UK race tracks
Callum Ilott, Sauber Junior team by Charouz. FIA Formula 2 Championship, Silverstone, Towcester, Great Britain. 12th July 2019.

“As everyone knows, Formula 2 is the pinnacle of the junior ladder and naturally the competition and ability level of all the drivers is very high. That’s the part I love the most, though I reckon. When the margins are so fine, you’ve got to really be on your game every time you’re behind the wheel and pushing and stretching yourself to get the absolute maximum out of yourself and the car. Having that intensity of competition in every session is a real pressure test and you have to use that to get the best out of yourself.”

What are the biggest differences over GP3 (now called F3)?

“Well to start with the car, there is a lot more horsepower, over 200 more, and a lot more aero so you can carry more speed through the corners. You’ve also got the full carbon brakes compared to the steel brakes in F3, and this gives you a massive difference in slowing down and you really feel the g-forces under braking. This comes with its challenges though as the tyres are more sensitive to degradation and you need to be more precise with your inputs. Both championships are really competitive, which is a great thing for the sport, but the fact you’re only one step away from F1 means the stakes in F2 are a lot higher and I think that makes it more unique.”

GP3 Series

How was your first taste of driving an F1 car?

“It is hard to put into words really. As a young driver, you spend years dreaming about getting behind the wheel of an F1 car. To get that opportunity last year thanks to Ferrari and Alfa Romeo Racing was phenomenal; the speed, the grip and the aero was amazing and the professionalism of the team was great – they made me feel very welcome and very comfortable from the very start, the whole thing was an incredible experience.

“In one way, yes it is a box ticked to say it is something I have achieved but it’s a real eye-opener to what could be possible. Nothing I have ever driven comes close to the feeling that you get behind the wheel of a Formula One car and, if it has done anything, it’s just made me want it even more to be able to do that on a regular basis one day in the future.”

What was your highlight of 2019?

“It’s probably not the easiest to pick out just one really…which I suppose I am lucky in saying! Qualifying P1 in my group at Monaco on my debut and starting on the front row is one that stands out and, of course, I will always remember my first podium in Barcelona. To stand on the podium and then get my first taste of a Formula One car a few days later was a pretty good week.

If I were to pick out one though, it would have to be qualifying on pole in Monza. After the tragic events in Spa the round before, it was always going to be a difficult week for everyone in Italy. It was a sombre paddock the whole weekend but it also felt like the best way to honour Anthoine was to get back out there and do what he so loved doing. For us at the Sauber Junior Team by Charouz, it was very tough knowing that we had to get back on track while Juan Manuel was still in hospital fighting for his life. I was just really pleased that we could come together as a team that weekend and claim our first pole of the season which felt like such a poignant moment for everyone.”

How do you expect 2020 to turn out with the new team?

“I am really excited about what lies ahead with UNI-Virtuosi Racing and the hard work has already started. I have had a great time with the Sauber Junior Team by Charouz and I owe them a huge thanks for all their efforts and the opportunity they gave me. I know that every year is but 2020 is a really big year for me and I’m delighted to be taking on the Championship with UNI-Virtuosi. They are a proven front-runner in Formula 2 and the goals are clear for us all as we head into the new season. I’ve already met so many great people within the team and we enjoyed a really successful outing at the Abu Dhabi test a couple of weeks back so it bodes well for what is to come this season. There are plenty of hard yards ahead but I’m incredibly motivated for it and to embrace the challenge of fighting it out regularly at the front and seeing where that takes us.”

credit: FIA F2 Championship

How has Ferrari been supporting your progress?

“In pretty much every way possible really! It is a support system like no other and as a young driver, I know how incredibly lucky and grateful I am to have the Ferrari Driver Academy in my corner every step of the way. The facilities that me and the rest of the junior drivers get to enjoy at Maranello are second to none. I think more than anything for me as a young driver, it’s the example that they set every step of the way. Everything they do has to be at a world-class level; whether that be on track, how they present an event or even how they speak with guests trackside. Being surrounded by that level of excellence and detail can only drive you on to be the best you possibly can be both in and out of the car.”

Do you get much time to spend time with friends and family?

“Probably not as much as most 21-year-old’s that is for sure! No matter what sport you are in, when you are competing at the highest level there are sacrifices that you have to make but in lots of ways it doesn’t feel like you are sacrificing anything. I’m very rarely at home that is true but there is a great bunch of us that get to travel around the world together chasing the dream and having some fun along the way too. 

Callum Ilott, Sauber Junior team by Charouz. FIA Formula 2 Championship, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Francorchamps, Belgium.

“Although I don’t see them as much as many would, I am beyond lucky to have such an incredibly supportive family behind me. I get home to see them as much as I can when we have short breaks and they get to the track as much as they can – but they know that when I’m there, I’m at work so it is a bit different!”

Will you look to race in any other championships in 2020 alongside F2?

“F2 is my focus for 2020 and all my work, energy and attention is going into that. At the moment, there is nothing else that I am looking at but you never quite know what is around the corner. I suppose last year I took on the Macau GP again which is always something I love doing but I’ve set myself my goals for 2020 and in Formula Two and I’ve got to give it my all to achieve those above anything else.”

Have you noticed a growth in your fanbase, or level of fame?

“The numbers on social media have definitely grown and the championship itself is reaching new heights with its following. Not only has it got a big following and all the sessions live on TV, but I can now play as myself on the F1 video game which is something I think is really cool.


“Silverstone, as my home race, was a fantastic experience. You could really feel the buzz from the crowd and it was a whirlwind weekend for me with so much to do off the track but hopefully a taste of some of the things that are to come! Also even in Budapest and Monza I had some fans shouting my name and holding union flags with my name on which is amazing really.”

What’s the greatest challenge you face going forward?

“I don’t see my challenges as any different to any other young driver – the level of competition is so fierce at Formula Two and beyond and that seems to be getting even more intense this year. The challenge is to stay ahead and get your nose in front despite the margins being so tight at this level. There is no magic solution to how you keep yourself ahead of the field…it’s about working hard with the complete focus on the challenge in front of you. Consistency will be the name of the game for me in 2020. I’ve proven that I can fight it out at the front in Formula Two and if I can deliver that consistently throughout the season, then we’ll be giving ourselves every chance.”

When we asked you about your dream car in the past you said it was a Ferrari LaFerrari. Is that still the dream car?

“Ferrari is a marque that produces incredible cars, I’ve always been a big fan of the brand even from a young age. A LaFerrari is still as good as it gets for me!”

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