SPEEDWAY, Ind. — It seems the trickle of Formula One driver interest in Indy car racing is getting stronger as F1 Scuderia Ferrari test driver Callum Ilott tested an Indy car for the first time on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Thursday.
Illott has been brought in by Juncos Hollinger Racing to run their #77-car entry into next weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland, which kicks off a three-race west coast swing for the NTT IndyCar Series.
“I mean, first time in Indianapolis, it’s an amazing place,” Illott said. “We don’t have anything like this in Europe. It’s quite special to be here, quite special to drive the car.”
Illott has been out of competitive racing for the last year as the reserve driver for the Alfa Romeo F1 team as part of the Scuderia Ferreri driver academy. He last competed in Formula 2 with the UNI-Virtuosi Racing.
“Going back almost one month ago, a very interesting text from my manager saying there was a potential opportunity to do some races in IndyCar this year,” Illott continued. “The next day I was on a Zoom call. IndyCar has been on my radar since the end of last year. You see a lot of drivers heading towards it.”
Illott turned several laps on the IMS road course as he got a feel for the car.
“In a certain way the style is definitely closer to what I felt in F2,” said Illott. “The F1 is an incredible car, but this on its own with these Firestone tires you can really push it, you can really slide in it, which is something I haven’t really had in Europe. So, I did really enjoy that to be able to go a bit sideways.”
Illott is the latest in a handful of drivers from the Formula 1 camp to dip his toe into IndyCar racing. Romain Grosjean has run a majority of the racing on the IndyCar calendar this year with Dale Coyne-Rick Ware Racing. Christian Lundgaard from Formula 2 had a one-off appearance in the Big Machine Spiked Coolers GP last month.
“The thing that motivated me in looking at IndyCar as a potential option, seeing Romain go over here, it’s definitely a great opportunity,” Illott said. “For me, I’ve been recommended this series for a long time, because of my still, because of how I approach things, so I’m here to give it a go.”
The Grand Prix of Portland will also be the first race for team co-owner Ricardo Juncos, whose team last raced in the 2019 Indianapolis 500 when Kyle Kaiser bumped two-time F1 world champion, Fernando Alonso, from the field. Now in a new partnership with former F1 boss Brad Hollinger, Juncos says they are pushing to run even more races in the near future.
“We were pushing for this, everybody knows what we did in 2019. We never stopped looking for this opportunity,” Juncos said. “Having Callum Illott, a top driver today, worldwide speaking is as good as we can ask for.”
The plan at the moment is for Illott to only run in Portland, but Juncos is hopeful more races could be added to the calendar for his team. The final three IndyCar races of the season are in Portland, Monterrey, and Long Beach.