For 2020 F2 Vice Champion Callum Ilott, it seems like he was pretty much ripped off for this season. While 2020 champion Mick Schumacher, 3rd place finisher Yuki Tsunoda AND 5th place finisher Nikita Mazepin were all promoted to F1 this year, it seems the same thing was destined for the runner-up Ilott. Linked to a probable drive with either Haas or Alfa-Romeo, those dreams were shattered when Haas signed their two rookies and shockingly Alfa-Romeo kept their current driver lineup unchanged.
Now left without an F2 ride as UNI-Virtuosi elected to sign Felipe Drugovich, Ilott was left stranded with seemingly no hope in sight. However after signing with Iron Lynx in the GT World Challenge Series, things started to look up for Ilott. He was named Alfa-Romeo Racing’s Reserve Driver and Scuderia Ferrari’s test driver for the 2021 season, and after his first shot at an F1 practice sessions as cancelled in Germany due to bad weather last season, he would finally get another shot in 2021.
Making his debut in FP1 for Alfa-Romeo at Portimao, Ilott finished P17 logging 21 laps a mere four tenths of off teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
“Once I was up to speed a bit with the tyres and getting used to it, I think I finished the run on the hards one-tenth off of Kimi, which was not bad at the time,” Ilott told Motorsport.com.“Overall I was building the consistency, and was very happy with the session. I got through all the run plan that we needed to, and discovered the limitations that we had as a team and as a driver as well.
“So overall, lots learned from my side, I think lots learned from the team. So yeah, big thanks to Alfa Romeo for giving me the opportunity.”
When asked about any possible future testing sessions with Ferrari or Alfa Romeo, the young Brit said it would be up to the team. Many pundits have linked Ilott to take over once Raikkonen is either let go or retires, however most of that is just speculation. Arguably the best young driver right now not to be in F1, Ilott will have some tough competition in the 2022 F1 Silly Season market including Nico Hulkenburg, Guanyu Zhou, Robert Shwartzman, Alex Albon and quite possibly Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon.
Regardless, Ilott is doing the best he can in the toughest motorsport on the face of the Earth. With only 20 seats in total, the opportunity to grab one is always quite rare. I believe Ilott is the front runner to replace either Giovanazzi or Raikkonen at Alfa-Romeo next year. Knowing F1, I wouldn’t put it past Ferrari to promote Mick Schumacher to Alfa-Romeo and give the vacant Haas seat to Ilott.