Callum Ilott feels positive about his Formula 1 debut for Alfa Romeo despite crashing during testing in Spain on Tuesday.
The Ferrari Driver Academy member had completed 41 laps when he lost control at Turn 3 and hit the wall heavily on the outside of the circuit, severely damaging the left hand side of the Alfa and ending his running for the day. Having had some time to digest the incident, Ilott – who is racing in Formula 2 this season and finished on the podium in Sunday’s sprint race in Barcelona – says there are plenty of positives to take from his first time in an F1 car.
“Obviously everyone’s a little bit nervous jumping into one of these but I’d prepared well and it’s incredible,” Ilott said. “It’s hard to describe, but the corner speed you can carry, more so with the power as well is amazing. So that was a bit of a shock, and a little bit to get used to at the beginning once we started to progress a bit from the installs, but actually I felt quite comfortable with the car and [was] really getting into it.
“In the morning we batted through all the testing that we needed to. I was happy, the team were happy so we were getting through that really well. So overall it was a really positive day, other than the crash. I think the team were happy because we did actually get through the program that they wanted to and that side of things, so afterwards it would have been more focused on me to do some performance runs, which is a shame I missed out on – a big shame – but these things happen, unfortunately.
“We’re still going through what caused the crash, because it’s not as obvious as I thought it was. But we’ll see. Anyway, I’ve always got to take some blame because it’s a crash, but we’re going to see why at that point I lost it, because it looks pretty similar to any other lap. We’ll look at that in more detail, but overall it’s been an incredible day.
“If you’d asked me three hours ago I was obviously a bit more distraught, but these guys have supported me right from the beginning of the day to the end of the day and the attitude towards everyone has been really helpful and really strengthening.”
Explaining the incident, Ilott said he was a long way into the sweeping right-hander when the car snapped away from him and he hit the wall with the left-rear corner.
“Turn 3, I’d done the first part of it and then out of nowhere just a big snap,” he said. “No previous movement, just gone. So that’s why it’s a bit unexplained. There’s no difference in wind, something hasn’t broken that we’ve seen, and in terms of driving it looks very similar, so it’s a bit strange.
“I was completely caught off-guard, because it was exactly the same as the other laps in terms of driving. So we’re still looking at it, and hopefully by tomorrow we’ll have more of an answer. But yeah, it caught me off-guard and it’s a real shame, because it was a real positive day up until that point and I felt like I’d done a really good job. I think if you speak to the team, it was really positive up until then.
“As an honest driver I always feel like it was my fault straight away at the beginning, like I’ve done something completely wrong or made the car snap. But my first real instinct is ‘what have I done?’, and you just blame yourself.
“Not that I’m blaming the team in any way shape or form, but immediately you think ‘maybe I went on the throttle too aggressively, maybe the wind changed’ or something, but I think it was a combination of when you are getting more up to speed with the car, more can happen and out of nowhere something can happen.”