Nothing highlights the disappointing year that former Red Bull Junior Jüri Vips has had, like only just achieving his first race win of this season’s Formula 2 campaign in the penultimate round of the championship. Last Saturday, F1 Feeder Series spoke to Vips about his last seven months in racing.
By Tyler Foster
Vips’ Sprint Race victory in Monza last week should have been one of many this year for the Estonian, with him coming into the 2022 F2 season as one of the main title contenders. Entering his third year in the series, after finishing an impressive sixth in 2021, Vips remained with Hitech and knew that he had to at least fight for the drivers’ championship in order to be in for a shot of making it to F1 via his Red Bull connection as a member of their driver academy.
With a couple of podiums in the first two rounds, including a near Feature Race win that was lost due to a slow pitstop, it seemed that Vips would be at the front of the field throughout the year. However, this only started off a run of poor performances mixed with podium-costing mistakes that would see two separate pole positions go to waste during Feature Races. Unforced errors in Imola and Baku caused retirements from otherwise winning positions, and from there onwards Vips failed to recover.
Besides a podium in the Feature Race in Monaco, which pushed him up to fifth in the standings, Vips performed poorly throughout the middle of the season. Hitech didn’t have the same pace in qualifying from Silverstone onwards and all of a sudden, points were hard to come by.
The turning point
A scandal caused by Vips using unsavoury racist language online, led to a major witch-hunt from fans to have the then 21-year-old stripped of his seat in F2 and removed from the Red Bull Junior Team. The latter was the main repercussion, with the Estonian parting ways with the Austrian outfit after nearly four years together. This effectively ended his Formula 1 dream, despite managing to hold on to his Hitech seat.
Nevertheless, Vips struggled to recover his already disappointing campaign in F2. A Sprint Race podium in Hungary was the only highlight before reaching Round 13 in Monza. After qualifying P8, Vips took advantage of his starting position for Saturday’s reverse-grid Sprint and finally achieved a victory. This was his first race win in F2 for 15 months, with his last being in Baku last year. Despite this, the Estonian is currently P10 in the standings, with less than half of the points of crowning F2 Champion Felipe Drugovich – a giant 131 points behind his total.
Speaking to the previously F1-backed driver, he explained his views to F1 Feeder Series on a disappointing season.
“It’s tough to find a word,” Vips said. “It’s taught me a lot of things, I think I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a driver as well. It’s just been sort of learning how to overcome bad results basically. It’s been sort of the story of the year but, happy to get finally one victory at least under our belt.”
What lies ahead?
While Vips spoke openly about his performances, his demeanour was an uncomfortable one. Clearly ravaged by the mistakes he has made on and off the track this year, it seems unlikely that he will return to F2 for a fourth season. There is an understanding of just how things went wrong, but it only seems a few months ago that Jüri Vips was one of the favourites to join the F1 grid for 2023. As Vips explained, the next step for his career is learning his lessons and somehow overcoming them, wherever that may be.
“As I said in the beginning, it’s been like a season where I’ve had to learn how to deal with these kinds of setbacks and stuff every race weekend. We haven’t had a good race weekend so far. It’s been incredibly tough. I wouldn’t say we’ve had the pace in the second half of the season as we had in the first, but also, I’ve made a couple mistakes here and there. It’s gone really really not to plan let’s say. I need to learn how to overcome it.”
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Limited
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