Ilott: Karts-to-F3 ban was not needed
Callum Ilott says an explicit ban on drivers going from karting straight to European Formula 3 was not necessary - and that he has no regrets over having made that move last year.
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In 2014, Max Verstappen stole headlines by finishing third in European F3 in his first full single-seater season, having come directly from karting.
Ilott and Italian racer Alessio Lorandi followed the same career path in 2015 before the FIA banned such moves from taking place.
For 2016 and beyond, the sport's governing body has made it mandatory for drivers to have at least one season of single-seater racing under their belt before entering European F3.
Ilott, however, does not agree with the new rule.
"Do you feel that the more successful karters like Max, Alessio and myself should have been banned?" the Briton asked rhetorically when talking to Motorsport.com.
"It is not a topic that has been given much attention, but under current FIA licence regulations, I am not sure if an explicit championship ban was necessary - as most karters are effectively banned anyway.
He elaborated: "To compete in European F3, you need an FIA international licence. And as the licence regulations are currently specified, many kart drivers are not eligible for it straight away and have to compete in other race categories to gain the results, competence and conduct deemed satisfactory for the license.
"My success in CIK-FIA karting events meant I was one of a few kart drivers eligible for a higher-grade international race licence in 2015.
"It allowed me to make the jump straight to F3. Without meeting the requirements, outlined in Appendix L of the FIA International Sporting Code, I would not have been issued an FIA International race licence by the MSA - the licence which enabled me to race in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand or the Euro F3 series.
"The MSA were clear on this issue. Looking at the 2016 licence regulations, successful kart drivers are still able to qualify for a higher-grade licence for use in a variety of championships. They are just no longer able to use it in European F3."
Even with the ban now in place, Ilott doesn't regret his direct move to European F3. "Personally I am pleased with my move to F3," he said.
"Without doubt I have developed and learned a lot racing with experienced engineers, drivers and the F3 machinery.
"The only downside is that testing is more restrictive and achieving results in F3 was more challenging than I would have hoped for. But that's the way to learn."
Having finished 12th in the championship, the British teen was the only driver in the field to have been classified in all 33 races during the season - and scored a maiden podium at the Nurburgring.
"At the sharp end of the grid I was racing against experienced drivers, some of whom had raced multiple seasons in F3," he said.
"I am one driver who is grateful for the opportunity to race against the seasoned drivers, rather than complaining about it being unfair. It's the best way to learn."
In 2015, the European F3 category received a lot of criticism after incident-filled events at Spa and Monza.
But while some blamed the crashing on a lack of experience in the field, Ilott does not concur.
"Last season we had a full grid of 34 drivers. I believe the crashes last year were partly down to the size of the grid, and involved experienced drivers as much as anyone else – certainly the vast majority cannot be blamed on new-to-F3 drivers.
"This season we have a grid closer in size to 2013 and 2014. Statistically, we should see fewer crashes.
"This year we might also see for the first time the use of the virtual safety car within F3, and it is unclear at this point how drivers will cope with the restarts from that - but, again, it should help.
"Also, all drivers attended an FIA training course covering important aspects of racing and the responsibilities of an F3 championship driver."
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