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IndyCar Portland

Rahal: Vips “paid a huge price” for mistake that cost F1 shot

Veteran IndyCar team owner Bobby Rahal says his new driver Juri Vips “paid a huge price” in losing his shot at Formula 1 with Red Bull.

Juri Vips, Red Bull Racing RB18

Vips, 23, who makes his IndyCar Series debut with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in Portland this weekend, was dropped from the Red Bull Junior Team after using a racial slur on a live gaming stream.

The Estonian had already made his FP1 debut for Red Bull at the Spanish Grand Prix, and was scheduled for another run at Silverstone, when he was heard using racist language during a video game livestream. He was first suspended, and then his contract was then terminated.

After apologizing for his behavior, Vips continued to race for his F2 team, Hitech Grand Prix, while undergoing diversity training. He hasn’t raced since the end of the 2022 F2 season.

“I think Juri is just a very nice, young guy,” said Rahal, who will evaluate Vips ahead of the opportunity for a full-time ride in 2024. “I mean, it's no secret that he made a mistake and paid a huge price, but people in Europe who I knew were very, very complimentary about him as a driver and as a person.

“This mistake was a single mistake. Unfortunately, as we all know, Juri paid a huge price for that and lost his position in the Red Bull system, which he was the preeminent junior driver at the time. In fact, it's kind of interesting that his partner who was with him at the time, Liam Lawson, just drove the AlphaTauri at the Dutch Grand Prix.

“[He] has really, I think, atoned for it through the diversity training programs that he's been involved with both in England and here in the United States. In fact, the same organization that [NASCAR star] Kyle Larson went to, and we felt that they were very good in their field, and Juri has been going through that program.

“But now he's trying to come back. We're pleased to give him that second chance I think. He has shown us enough for us to give him a shot, and he has certainly worked hard to correct the mistake that he made. So, we're excited about him joining the team for these last two races.”

Juri Vips, 2022 Reserve Driver, Red Bull Racing

Juri Vips, 2022 Reserve Driver, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Vips explained that the training courses he’s undergone have led him to want to be a “model citizen from now on”.

“After everything happened last year, I asked my team at the time, Hitech, to do some kind of course for me to understand what's offensive and what's not because I made this huge mistake without knowing it's such a big mistake,” he said. “I thought it was just a swear word that I was saying.

“I wanted to know more about it, first of all, just so nothing like this can happen again because I don't know what else I don't know, you know? Then, yeah, I had a lot of time to reflect on who I disappointed.

“I had so many fans, so many people cheering for me, so many people that helped me through my career, and I just threw it all away because I wasn't… before this I wasn't interested in learning about anything. All I cared about was racing.

“That's, I guess, why I thought the word that I said was a swear word and not way worse than it actually is. Yeah, since that I've learned a lot.

“I took two sensitivity courses. One in the UK, and we decided with Rahal here it's good to do a refresher course as well. Things might be a little bit different in the US and that's definitely helped as well just to get a different perspective on things. I definitely learned more in the RISE program that I just completed here.

“I feel like I have grown as a person but I am really grateful for the second chance, and I completely understand all the outrage. Now that I understand what the word means, it's completely justifiable, and I am very sorry for everybody that I've hurt.”

Juri Vips, Red Bull Racing

Juri Vips, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Vips says his future target is now a career in IndyCar, and that he has given up on his F1 ambitions.

“I have no thoughts of F1 at all,” he added. “I really like it here in the States. I've come to a couple of IndyCar races now, spent a bit of time here. So I'm really, really liking IndyCar and everything about America.

“It's a very different environment to F1, and I'm just enjoying it so much. I've forgotten about F1 a bit. I don't have any ambitions towards that at the moment, but yeah, trying to get a full-time drive for next year.”

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