INTERVIEW: Vesti Delighted With Progress In Rookie F2 Season – The Checkered Flag

The 2022 FIA Formula 2 campaign has been a rollercoaster and a half for the rookie ART Grand Prix driver Frederik Vesti.
A proven race winner from his time in FIA Formula 3 where he appeared on the podium nine times including four trips to the top step over the course of two seasons more than earned himself a promotion to the second tier of single-seater racing for 2022.
The Checkered Flag sat down with Vesti on the evening before he headed to Belgium for round eleven of the F2 championship to talk through his thoughts about his rookie campaign in Formula 2 and his hopes for the future of his racing career.
The Mercedes junior spoke of “one of the biggest moments of my career” as well as a period of the season where he feels like “struggled so much”.
Vesti looks relaxed and composed as we speak, coming off the back of a weeks holiday in Italy with family and friends and straight back into hard physical training in preparation for the upcoming triple header.
The first talking point we had was how the young Dane managed to switch his form around after the first five races of the season. In those first five contests, Vesti wasn’t able to score a point with his best performance being a tenth place in the Imola Sprint Race.
“The main issue I had in the first, at least the first three rounds which was Bahrain, Jeddah and Imola, I was struggling to put a good enough lap time in Quali before something happened.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of red flags and those sort of things in Formula 2 and so if you don’t have a good enough time on the board early on in Qualifying it is quite easy to get caught out without having a strong enough Qualifying time.”
Vesti’s struggles with his one lap pace were highlighted in his results of those first three rounds, he didn’t manage to qualify higher than sixteenth until the fourth round of the season in Barcelona where it seemed everything clicked and he stuck it onto the second row of the grid in third place.
“What I realised was if I push harder in Free Practice and get myself closer to P1 in Free Practice then I’m a lot closer to the ideal time in Qualifying.
“That really changed massively for me because all of a sudden instead of being one step behind, I felt like I was one step in front. That’s the biggest difference from Bahrain, Jeddah to the more consistent qualifying performances.”
The season only started to get better from there for Vesti who clinched his first podium in Formula 2 in the Barcelona Feature Race, finishing in third behind Felipe Drugovich and fellow rookie Jack Doohan.
On top of that, he swooped to his maiden victory in the category just two rounds later on the streets of Baku. He brilliantly held off a charging Jehan Daruvala to win the Sprint Race by less than half a second.
The icing on the cake, however, came another two rounds later in the hills of Styria at the Red Bull Ring. His struggles in Qualifying from the start of the season were well and truly vanquished with Vesti charging to pole position and recreating his feat from the 2020 F3 season.
“I think taking the pole position in Spielberg was probably one of my biggest moments of my career. Having struggled so much with Qualifying earlier in the season and then just improving.
“I was getting better and better each round and then I did the P2 in Silverstone and then the week after I did the P1 at the Red Bull Ring.”
“It was just this great feeling of progress and having struggled so much, it was a really big result for me and all the people around me.”
The ART driver then noted that the only thing that could beat his feat in Spielberg would be “a Feature Race win coming up before Abu Dhabi hopefully.”
With the exception of Hitech Grand Prix, every other team on the F2 grid has at least one rookie driver in their line-up which makes for a total of ten rookies with a full-time drive this season.
With that being said, Vesti finds himself as the second highest placed rookie in the drivers’ standings, behind Carlin and Williams Academy driver Logan Sargeant. He explains that F2 is a big step up from F3 in more ways than one.
“I think in Formula 3, this is just my own opinion comparing between F3 and F2 but if you have a fast car, if you have a good rhythm, it’s pretty much just arrive and drive as fast as you can and get the results.
“It’s a bit easier, the tyres are less difficult to manage than in F2, the brakes are a lot different and also the car is a lot easier to drive in general because it’s lighter, it’s a slower car.”
Aside from the physical changes to how different the car is, the Mercedes junior feels like a big factor in being successful when you jump up from F3 to F2 is being able to adapt quite quickly.
“You can do something in F2 in one weekend and then you do the same next time and it’s different so I feel like in F2 you have to be a lot more adaptable and be good at changing your driving style and even from session to session it’s very different driving in Formula 2.”
Being able to fluidly adapt his driving style to the different driving conditions is something Vesti is proud of achieving in his rookie season, “I think that could be where I have made a good step this year comparing to last year.”
As he is part of the Mercedes junior line-up, the way his current performances are going might just have to adapt a little bit more if he earns himself a test with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team or even a customer F1 team.
“It’s definitely something I’m pushing for together with my manager Dorte Riis. I don’t know anything at this time. I’m fully focused on my Formula 2 season and I know that’s the opinion of Mercedes as well.”
But for now, he knows that his performances in Formula 2 will speak for themselves, “It’s really important that I deliver and show the people that the results are there in F2. If I can do that then I’m sure an opportunity will come my way.”
The young Dane is the most senior member of the Mercedes junior drivers, an academy which has produced the likes of George Russell, Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein who have all gone on to a career in the pinnacle of motorsport. For Frederik, it means a lot to him.
“Being a Mercedes junior driver is a long-time dream for me and being a part of the whole Mercedes brand is incredible. I’m representing one of the biggest brands in the world which is a great honour and something I carry with a lot of pride.
“Having the Mercedes star on my helmet is definitely something that is quite important to me. It’s really cool and I hope I can get the opportunity to drive the car one day.”
With four rounds left to contest in the 2022 season, Vesti sits in sixth place of the drivers’ standings with his team sitting at the top of the teams’ standings by a comfortable forty-three points.
With a teams’ championship well within the sights at the French racing outfit, the young Dane is fully focused on bringing home the points to better both his and the teams positions in the standings.
“I don’t think there is a big difference between the two. You only get points when you do a good job in the races and you get points for both yourself as well as the team. So I can’t really say I’m going to focus too much on the team.”
His team-mate Théo Pourchaire is currently locked into a championship battle with Drugovich at the top of the standings, with Pourchaire being just twenty-one points behind the Brazilian as we head into the final stretch of the season.
Vesti explains that him and Théo work really well together which is reflected in the performance of the team,
“I’m here to create my own career so I’m definitely focused on my own results and getting the maximum I can. With that, of course comes the team and me a Théo are working incredibly hard and well together to bring our results very consistently for the team.
“And I think that shows this year with how strong ART actually are this year.”
We now have to look to the upcoming race weekends to see how the rest of the season will pan out for ART Grand Prix and Frederik Vesti.
He has been on an upwards trajectory since his first taste of Formula 2 at the start of the season and he has no plans on slowing down now.
Formula 2 will reconvene at SpaFrancorchamps on the weekend of 26th – 28th August.
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