Estonian racing driver Juri Vips will keep his seat in F1 feeder series Formula 2, despite being dropped from the Red Bull junior program following a racist outburst online.
Last week, the 21-year-old racer was heard using a racial slur while streaming a gaming session online. Immediately following the incident, he was suspended by Red Bull pending an investigation into his actions.
Now, in a week that has seen Formula 1 tackle its own outbursts of racist language, it’s been announced that Vips has been dropped by the Red Bull young driver program. He has also been relieved of his duties as the team’s test and reserve driver.
But, despite this move from Red Bull, Vips will be allowed to keep his seat with the Hitech GP Formula 2 team. As such, he will still compete in the eight remaining races in the 2022 F2 season.
Without his biggest sponsor to back his continued Formula 2 campaign, many expected the young driver to be dropped from the sport. But instead, his team has today announced that Vips will keep his drive for the remainder of the 2022 season.
In a statement released on Twitter, Hitech GP boss Oliver Oakes said:
“I have made the decision for Juri to keep his F2 seat with Hitech for the remainder of the season, a decision we have seriously debated. Allowing him to complete his season with Hitech is an opportunity for him to demonstrate, through his actions, the type of person he is.”
The statement argues that being dropped by Red Bull was “a deservedly severe punishment” for the young driver, and that keeping him in the sport will give him a chance to “demonstrate genuine and sincere remorse for his future actions.”
The team’s decision to keep Vips on board is a move that has shocked some in the paddock. Formula 2 itself released a statement calling the decision “surprising and not one we would have taken.”
F2 added that it would “monitor the situation carefully with them to ensure that such behavior is properly addressed.”
Many hoped the punishment for Vips would be more severe, especially following the backlash F1 faced yesterday after racist comments made by three-time world champion Nelson Piquet resurfaced online.
Alongside widespread condemnation from teams and drivers in F1 following Piquet’s use of a racist slur to describe Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes driver said it was “time for action” to tackle racism in the sport.
This incident was motorsport’s first opportunity to show that it was serious about stamping out racism across the sport. But if such attitudes are left to fester in F1's feeder series, there’s no surprise they remain commonplace in top-tier motorsport as well.