The 22-year-old, who finished runner-up in Formula 2 last year, is currently not only Ferrari test driver but also a reserve for the Alfa Romeo F1 team. Yet on Friday it was confirmed he’d be competing for Juncos Hollinger-Chevrolet not only in Portland but also the final two IndyCar rounds at Laguna Seca and Long Beach.
Asked by Motorsport.com if Ferrari had been OK with this late-season IndyCar deal, Ilott replied: “Good question… but at the end of the day, we spoke and it’s a great opportunity for me.
“Obviously recently there were some COVID issues with the Alfa Romeo team [Kimi Raikkonen missed both Zandvoort and this weekend’s round at Monza] but not to get confused, I was never scheduled to be at those events anyway. I have these two weekends free and so unfortunately there was never an opportunity for me to drive in place of Kimi.
“So Ferrari weren’t against me doing this race. The only thing to discuss was for the next two races, and see what the best option was, and seems to me it was to be out here and to do those races [Laguna Seca and Long Beach].”
He also said: “It took a little bit of negotiation to sort it out but I’m here and I’m going to enjoy it.”
Asked if he had anything confirmed with Juncos-Hollinger for 2022, Ilott responded: “Not yet. Not yet. We’re in discussions, but for sure it’s of interest.
“They’ve got 20-plus drivers who are interested at the moment! But I’m the one here and driving the car so it’s a good point to carry on from – but I need to see what I can do.”
Referring to F2 driver Christian Lundgaard’s startling debut in the third Rahal Letterman Lanigan car, when he qualified fourth at the IMS road course last month, Ilott said: “I’m sure people will have high expectations from Christian’s race a couple of races ago but I think at the end of the day we have to do what we can and do the best job possible.”
“[Team co-owners Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger] have put together an amazing team in two months and we’ll see what we can do. From my side, I think we can do an amazing job and it may take one or two races to get there.
“It’s new for the team, new for me, I’m excited and I definitely feel there can be some good results.”
Hollinger said he would be undaunted to enter the 2022 season with a one-car team and a rookie driver.
“Callum has so much experience in open-wheel racing, with his background in F1, and he’s driven other cars as well, the transition should not be that difficult,” he commented. “He’s already adapted pretty doggone well, so I have every confidence in him.
“He was on our shortlist from the beginning, so we’re very fortunate to have him.”
Looking ahead to his debut, Ilott said his one-day test on the IMS road course had been positive, in that the car was “very similar to what I’m used to with the F2 car – just better tires and more grip and a bit more power” but he was eager to know where he stood once he saw his times compared with the rest of the 27-car field at Portland.
“I learned a lot [at IMS],” he said. “We had a few little things we had to iron out, but by the end we had a car that was fully working and felt good. So from that side there was a lot to build on and get comfortable with.
“For sure I’m not perfect and 100 percent used to the car, especially until I get out on track and see what the others are doing. But I think it’s a good baseline…
“I like a project so for sure it’s a good opportunity to do. I want to see how these races go… and I want to see if I can do a proper job as well.
“The test went well, racing’s another side, but let’s see.”