Callum Ilott and the Juncos Hollinger Racing team have parted ways after two years in IndyCar together.
Ilott was the driver Juncos chose to make its return to IndyCar with at the back end of 2021, the year after Ilott had ran fellow Ferrari junior Mick Schumacher to a close runner-up in the Formula 2 championship.
After three races in 2021, Ilott ran as a single Juncos entry the following year, scoring a second-place qualifying result at the Laguna Seca season finale as well as two top-10 finishes.
In a press release sent out by Juncos, the team said it “regrets to announce the departure” of Ilott, and that “both parties have mutually decided to part ways”.
Team boss and co-owner Ricardo Juncos said: “While it is with mixed emotions that we bid farewell to Callum Ilott, I would like to express my gratitude to Callum for all of his efforts during his time with our team, and we deeply appreciate his contributions.
“We wish him the very best in his future endeavours. Callum has shown immense talent, and we have no doubt that he will continue to make his mark in the world of motorsport.”
Ilott added: “I want to extend my gratitude to Juncos Hollinger Racing for the opportunity to be part of their team. I have immense respect for the organisation, and our time together has been a valuable experience. I look forward to exploring new opportunities and challenges in my racing career.”
Ilott made the most ground of any driver on average comparing finishing position from qualifying position over the course of 2023, and had a particularly strong year on the ovals in his sophomore season - which he finished 16th, with two top-five finishes.
There were some difficulties inside the team this season, as Juncos remained stretched and had a revolving door of personnel having expanded to two cars for 2023.
Ilott had to fight to go to a back-up car in Indianapolis 500 practice as he reckoned it was ill-handling while no serious issues were showing up in the data, causing the team to question the move.
He got his way and improved his times massively after the switch. Ilott qualified for the race, in 28th, then finished it in 12th.
Ilott also had to contend with abuse, often from fans of his Argentinian team-mate Agustin Canapino.
At Long Beach, Ilott was released from the pits just in front of Canapino, who was leading while running off-strategy, and his fans blamed Ilott for holding him up. A huge social media backlash and death threats followed.
There was a second flashpoint at the Laguna Seca finale, where Ilott was initially blamed for an on-track collision induced by Canapino cutting across Ilott’s car.
Jack Benyon's view
Ilott is far too good to be cast aside like this, but perhaps this particular team and driver relationship had run its course.
You can argue until you're blue in the face that Ilott is a better option than whoever will replace him - probably Romain Grosjean - and that he is better than a number of drivers who have been given seats or promotions during this cycle.
Ilott's probably a victim of being under contract for Juncos this year with an option on the team's side for next season, which has likely made other teams less likely to try to liberate him, even if he does deserve a better drive than the one he's losing.
While I'm sure Ilott would have given his best for Juncos next year, what he has gone through in terms of abuse this year is something no driver should have to and I can understand if he was just as happy as Juncos to end this relationship now.
Performing in that environment and trying to lead a team forward in those circumstances must be a challenge, however supportive Ricardo Juncos and his crew may have been.
I doubt Ilott will be one of the drivers who fades into IndyCar obscurity. It's just a shame about the timing as I suspect a handful of other teams would have snapped at the chance to sign him before the drivers they eventually went for if it was clear he was available.
Romain Grosjean has been heavily linked to a Juncos seat in recent weeks, although Juncos has been known to look far afield at candidates and drivers based in Europe and in Indy NXT will be keen to bring a budget to what is effectively the best seat remaining in IndyCar for next season.
The Race’s sources indicate Grosjean was being lined up as a team-mate for Ilott if Canapino’s funding did not materialise for 2023, but it did and he was announced at the team last week.
Ilott has raced in GTs both before and during his foray into IndyCar, but will be looking for a top single-seater drive in the coming months.
Few drives remain available in IndyCar.
2023 IndyCar grid so far
AJ Foyt: TBC, TBC
Andretti Global: Marcus Ericsson, Colton Herta, Kyle Kirkwood, TBC (could shrink to three cars)
Arrow McLaren: David Malukas, Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi, Kyle Larson (Indy 500 only)
Dale Coyne: TBC, TBC
Chip Ganassi Racing: Marcus Armstrong, Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Linus Lundqvist, Kyffin Simpson
Ed Carpenter: Ed Carpenter/Christian Rasmussen (ovals/road and street), Rinus VeeKay
Juncos Hillinger: Agustin Canapino, TBC
Meyer Shank: Tom Blomqvist, Felix Rosenqvist, Helio Castroneves (Indy 500 only)
Rahal Letterman Lanigan: Pietro Fittipaldi, Christian Lundgaard, Graham Rahal (agreed a contract, not yet confirmed), TBC (part-time fourth car for Juri Vips possible)
Team Penske: Scott McLaughlin, Josef Newgarden, Will Power