Callum Ilott believes it would be an “injustice” if Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri is left without a drive in Formula 1 in 2023.
Piastri became only the third driver to win the Formula 3/GP3 championship and Formula 2/GP2 championship in consecutive seasons in 2021, following Charles Leclerc and George Russell in doing so, but he will be on the F1 sidelines in 2022 as Alpine’s reserve driver.
The 20-year-old Australian missed out on a seat at Alfa Romeo to Guanyu Zhou – who finished third in Formula 2 last year – for this season, and he is not due to race in any series in 2022 to focus entirely on his Alpine duties.
Piastri himself admitted that he would be “pretty annoyed” to miss out on a seat in 2023, and Ilott, himself the Formula 2 runner-up in 2020, thinks it would not reflect well on the junior path in single seaters if a driver of the Aussie’s talent is not rewarded with a drive in F1.
“From stories in the past I believe similar things have happened in the sense of young guys didn’t make it and you always believe that’s not going to happen to you, and at the end of the day life is like that,” said Ilott, quoted by Motorsport Week.
— Oscar Piastri (@OscarPiastri) December 15, 2021
“But with Oscar it’s a bit different in the sense that there wasn’t availability for the support package that he had for this year, so I wasn’t surprised in that sense.
“What would be a surprise is if at the end of this year he didn’t have a seat for the following year because you can have a year off, as we’ve seen with many drivers, but if he doesn’t get one at the end of the year, I’d be very surprised.
“That would be an injustice to junior formula and the single seater ladder that we have.”
On a personal level, Ilott will be taking a year away from the Ferrari Driver Academy to take up a full-time seat in IndyCar in 2022, with Juncos Hollinger Racing.
He took part in two free practice sessions for Alfa Romeo last season, but a full-time opportunity in Formula 1 is yet to open up for the 23-year-old Englishman.
He spoke reflectively about how difficult it is to become a Formula 1 driver outright, given the number of factors in play for a driver to get the opportunity – and he admitted it was a “very lonely discovery process” for him as that played out in front of him.
Despite that, he’s looking forward to the opportunity of showing his talent Stateside in 2022.
“There’s 20 seats [in F1], and most of them are filled by the guys who have proven [themselves] and earned that seat for a long time, and at the end of the day it’s expensive,” Ilott said.
“It’s expensive for the teams. It’s expensive for the sponsors. You’ve got to fit into that package, and yeah, unfortunately it doesn’t always work.
“It’s an individual sport in the way it works, and unfortunately for the young guys… for me, it was a very lonely discovery process of that’s how the world works.
“IndyCar is a new start for me and a great opportunity, so yeah, that’s the way I want to look at it, and I think to be fair for me, I will have hopefully a very good career out here.”
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