Exactly a week ago Antonio Giovinazzi was finally confirmed as the new Sauber driver, partnering Kimi Raikkonen from the 2019 Formula One season onwards.
With this move Ferrari has confirmed his ability to provide every driver joining their junior program, Ferrari Driver Academy, serious career opportunities. That’s why ROSSOautomobili has started a series of interviews wih the brightest rising stars in Maranello, the young Academy members. After starting it out with Marcus Armstrong, we’ve had the chance of asking a few questions to Callum Ilott, 19-year-old GP3 talent currently racing with ART Grand Prix.
Callum, you have been part of the Ferrari Driver Academy for almost a year now. How would you sum up the experience so far? How would you say it helped your development as a driver?
“Being part of the FDA has been very positive for my development in a number of ways. First, it has given me structure and plan to my activities and preparation. That’s something I haven’t really benefitted from until this season. Now, most of my time is filled with activities from the FDA. That might be time on the simulator, physical training, Italian language lessons or one of the number of training camps we attend together. The support extends to race weekends too. Massimo Rivola, who leads the Academy, is at my events along with Marco Matassa, an FDA engineer to support me. It’s been useful in my rookie GP3 season to have another pair of eyes and ears there. The other aspect I’ve mentioned several times is the ‘family’ approach.
This was one of the things that initially attracted me to the FDA when the opportunity came up last year. All the FDA drivers work and train together and I’ve even got a few drivers living in the same apartment block as me, so there is the chance to socialise together. When you are a young driver, you can be isolated, living at home. At the FDA, there are guys around all the time. It’s different to other programmes but it seems to work.”
How would you describe your relationship with the fellow FDA drivers? Is it particularly influenced by competition or do you prefer a constructive, collective approach?
“Because we work on our development programmes together, it’s more of a collective approach. Of course, some of us are rivals on track and even driving for different teams in the same series, but the culture Massimo and his team have created means we can train and work together. It’s a good life lesson too.”
If given the chance, how do you think you would perform in F2? You’ve already raced with Trident last year in your home GP, are you still in contact with them for a possible transition or would you continue your path with ART?
My F2 was a real baptism of fire, with no preparation but I loved that car and the extra power! I literally did the deal on the Tuesday before the race and spent a couple of long nights reading the car manual. There wasn’t even time for a run on the simulator and I ended up doing the seat fit in the garage. Pace was good and I enjoyed the car, I think it suited me, having a bit more power. It was just a shame the rear wing element broke in qualifying as I think I could have actually been higher up the grid. I’d had no experience of DRS, pit stops and the Pirelli rubber.
The tyre management is such a big thing and I just needed a bit more experience to know when to push and when to conserve the tyres. It’s been a big learning from this season in GP3 so I’m confident I could do the job in F2 when I get there.
The nice thing from that weekend was that Trident’s team principal Giacomo [Ricci, ed.] was super impressed with my pace and approach. He’s an ex-racer so he knows what I achieved by just hopping in the car and doing what I did.
F2 would be my plan for 2019 but I’ve made no final decision on this. It’s been pretty interesting to see how everyone is getting on with the new car, hasn’t it?
Is there a driver on the current F1 grid whom you consider an inspiration and/or a role model?
“No, not really. I respect their achievements and I appreciate how much work and effort they have put in to reach there. Getting to F1 is inspirational in itself as it is so tough to reach but no, I don’t have a particular role model.”
Do you have any particular pre-race ritual you like to perform?
I don’t have any real rituals or superstitions around the car. Key for me is staying chilled. I’ll listen to some music in the back of the truck and then it’s a brief warm up before. I keep it low key, conserving energy for the race. Then it’s into the car, final check with the engineers and off to the grid. It’s all about the racing!”
We at ROSSOautomobili wish Callum the best for the final round of 2018 GP3 Serires in Abu Dhabi, thanking him for his precious insight.