Like their Formula 2 careers, Callum Ilott and Juan Manuel Correa’s relationship as teammates is in it’s infancy, and yet the Sauber Junior Team by Charouz duo appear to be showing positive early signs.
Both drivers are in their first full FIA Formula 2 season and have built a bond between themselves through their relative inexperience at this level. Supporting one another off the track as they prepare to go to battle on it.
The first Round of the season in Bahrain proved an important learning curve, but Correa was pleased with his progress, saying: “In Bahrain Free Practice, we had decent speed. I would have qualified P8 if it wasn’t for traffic, and Callum, who knows? Laughs. But for sure we could have both been top 10 which is basically what we need at the moment. The main thing for me was about how much you have to manage the tyres.”
Although not technically a rookie, Ilott could be forgiven for feeling pretty new to the F2 circuit. The Cambridgeshire-born British driver’s first experience of Formula 2 came back in 2017, debuting for Trident in the sixth round at Silverstone. Ilott would then race in the GP3 series with ART Grand Prix in 2018, before linking up with Charouz in F2, this January.
The 20-year-old suffered a baptism of fire in Bahrain, when his car was sent hurtling into the barriers in Qualifying, prompting the response, ‘I’m such an idiot.’ Ilott’s honesty will have further endeared him to fans, as he continues to get to grips with his new car.
Explaining, he said: “I would say, if you know you are not going to make the corner, don’t try and make the corner. If you are breaking late, it is not worth doing what I did in Bahrain.
“For both of us, I think Bahrain was a really steep learning curve - shall we say. I think it was a shock for us in regards to how much experience makes a difference. We hope it is just specifically that track, but it was quite a big difference to what we expected.
“For example, with tyre deg’ there are three stages. There is when you think to yourself, that is what I have to do. Then, you have got someone telling you that you’ve got to save more than normal. And, then there is Bahrain, which is just another level.
“In free practice, you have really got to focus on chilling and not fighting at all, which goes against your natural instincts. On the first few laps we were together at one point, but it just took too much out of the tyres, so you are better off chilling and saving.”
Tyre preservation is always a mammoth challenge for those stepping up to F2, but it’s an area in which the duo are well drilled and Ilott displayed how much he has already learned.
He continued: “The thing with GP3 was that you could feel when you would get the deg’, so you knew that you had to make an adjustment to your driving, and then you would still be able to save the tyre, it wouldn’t be too late.
“Whereas in F2 it is always too late because once you start to feel it, it is already gone. You have to anticipate it, which is difficult when you don’t know what you are anticipating.”
The duo are stronger for the experience and Correa praised their improvement in the lead-up to Round 2, in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“We are not where we were in Bahrain, we are much further up from that and our potential is much further up. For me, this is another specific race in a way because obviously the track is quite difficult and the races are often a mess. It will not be the deg’ experience, but the race experience, so it will be more about ‘should I go for that pass’ or ‘how much should I fight.”
Ilott added: “Even in Qualy, if you add in the fact that we don’t know the circuit, if we are around P10, then I think we will have a good race because in Bahrain, I learned some stuff in the races, and I thought, if only I knew that in Qualy...
“Both here and in other races it will hopefully show that we have got a good car and once we get the hang of it, it should be alright.”
Ilott is currently 17th in the Driver’s Championship, while Correa is 19th, as they prepare for the second Round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship in Baku this weekend.