For most young and aspiring drivers, three race wins, second in the prestigious Macau Grand Prix and fourth in the Formula 3 championship would represent a return to be proud of.
But, for Hitech GP’s ambitious Estonian driver Juri Vips, the season was something of a disappointment, not least because fourth place in the F3 championship did not guarantee him the treasured prize of an FIA Super Licence, which allows the holder to compete in the Formula One World Championship.
“To be honest, the season was really disappointing for me,” Vips told Motorsport Tech, shortly after the Macau GP. “The only thing that really matters is not the end result but of course the Super Licence points that I didn’t get because I finished fourth, so it was a bit of a disappointment. But that’s the way it is, sometimes.”
Such degree of tunnel vision, to so quickly forget the past and focus on the ultimate goal, the ultimate prize of competing at the pinnacle of motorsport, is what sets the most successful drivers aside from the also-rans. Forget what has gone before, regroup and go again. And again.
Of course, motorsport is littered with stories of drivers brimming with talent and potential who have never made it to the very top. Everything, including results, sponsorship, and no shortage of luck – being in the right place at the right time – has to fall perfectly into place.
“For sure, the ultimate goal is to drive in Formula One, so the Super Licence for me is the biggest thing right now in my career,” adds Vips. “That will be the target next year. I never miss a grand prix, but there are not drivers I particularly follow. For sure, you can learn from every driver and hear stories about how they approach things and that kind of stuff, driving style maybe.”
Key to Vips’ development as a driver has been partner team Hitech GP, and Vips also acknowledged the work of technical partner Acronis, in a sport where data holds so much significance.
“They’ve been good. They are a very professional group of people and it was very, very enjoyable to work with them. For sure it has helped to have a technical partner such as Acronis on board, too. I can see that it’s on a very high level and they have many advanced tools to help with data and you can see they have a lot more available than what I had previously, so they are a big help for us.”
As for next season, Vips is unsure what the future holds, but he has his sights set on either F2 or Super Formula, with his eyes firmly on that so far elusive Super Licence and beyond. So down-to-earth is Vips as a character, that one gets the feeling that even if he does achieve his ultimate goal, it really won’t change him. He is not the kind of person who craves being the centre of attention.
“Motorsport in Estoinia isn’t really big,” explains Vips. “There is some coverage in newspapers about me, but it’s not really that big. I’m getting quite overshadowed by Ott Tanak, who just won the world rally championship, so the whole of Estonia is really cheering for him. And that takes a lot of the spotlight off me, because I don’t really like that!”
Despite coming across as the ultimate perfectionist, Vips did allow himself just a little credit for his performance in Macau, aside from the obvious disappointment of not winning the showpiece event, having led from the race from pole position.
“For sure, I was disappointed not to win,” adds Vips. “I felt like I did everything really well, but it was almost like it wasn’t meant to be. Everything really went Richard’s way and it was really frustrating not to win the race. But there were many positives, as you say with practice and qualifying and dominating most of the weekend as well as leading the race.
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“Regardless, it’s great to race at Macau. It’s a really, really challenging circuit and you have to be really clever about where you push and how much you push and at what time and at which session, so let’s say there’s a lot more to think about compared to a normal race weekend. Last year I didn’t have the pace for a podium but the whole weekend was the unluckiest I’ve ever had and this year, again, was a bit annoying not to win because we were the fastest all weekend, so my goal was not reached.”