FIA F2

Juri Vips accepts Red Bull F1 chance may not arise in 2022

Juri Vips remains confident and is prepared to wait for a Formula 1 chance in the future after the Red Bull junior was jumped in the pecking order by Yuki Tsunoda.

The Formula 2 driver had emerged at the front of the Red Bull junior talent conveyor belt heading into 2020 before the Estonian’s plans became severely impacted by COVID-19.

Red Bull had placed Vips with Team Mugen in Super Formula for 2020, but as the global pandemic hit the rising star was unable to enter Japan to compete in the first three rounds of the series.

As a result, Vips had to resort to a part Formula Regional European Championship campaign before being drafted in by DAMS as a replacement for the injured Sean Gelael in F2 for four rounds. Red Bull also recalled its driver back to Europe to complete a 300km F1 test to help secure his superlicence and was the team’s reserve driver at four grands prix.

However, during that turbulent season Tsunoda’s star had risen to the point that saw the Japanese driver finish third in the championship, earning a graduation to AlphaTauri’s F1 squad for 2021.

Now back on the F2 grid full-time with Hitech Grand Prix, the 20-year-old says 2020’s struggles has made him mentally stronger and is even more determined to forge a path to F1.

“I think it actually has made me stronger in a way mentally but it was quite tough not being able to compete in Super Formula,” Vips, who is awaiting news regarding Red Bull F1’s reserve driver role this year, told Motorsport.com. “Obviously Yuki [Tsunoda] had a really good year last year and he got the well-deserved promotion. If anything I think it has made me stronger.

“I will obviously have to perform this year I don’t see why not and I don’t see why I won’t be able to perform this year. After what we saw in the first weekend at least we were really up there with the best on pace.

“I think if I keep doing a good job and the luck will turn around I will definitely have some [F1] opportunities.”

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Now Tsunoda is placed at AlphaTauri and performing well alongside Pierre Gasly at the Red Bull sister squad, Vips is realistic about his future and admits he may have to wait at least a year for an F1 opening.

“It is hard to predict. But even if it means I have to wait a year then that is okay like Pierre did, for example, he won GP2 then did a year in Super Formula before he got promoted," he said, when asked about where an F1 opening may eventuate.

“It is hard to predict the future or the driver market for next year, but it is hard to tell if it will be next year or further in the future, but hopefully next year.”

Vips will also face plenty of competition in the Red Bull junior ranks within F2 this year, with rookie Liam Lawson scoring a debut race win and podium, while the more experienced Jehan Daruvala netted a podium at the Bahrain opener.

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Last month's curtain raiser proved a weekend to forget for Vips after being excluded from qualifying after his car’s undertray breached regulations which put him to the back of the grid. He was then on course to win race two before a mechanical issue struck, ending the weekend without points after another drive form the back in race three.

“There is always pressure to perform if you are in the Red Bull programme or any programme if you want to get to F1,” he added. “There is definitely that pressure but I didn’t really think too much about Jehan [Daruvala] or Liam [Lawson], I just focus on my own job.

“If I'm better then I'm better, but if I'm not then I know I won't be in F1. I don't really focus on them too much. I don’t think I will perform worse in the coming rounds. For sure it is not an ideal [start] but I don’t think it changes anything going forward.

“The pace is definitely there and we just keep going and hope this [unfortunate] stuff doesn’t happen and we should be up there and able to contend for the title in the end.”

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