Jüri Vips turned a disheartening Friday afternoon on its head in Sunday’s Feature Race, carving his way from the back of the field all the way through to claim an impressive eighth.
Pleased to have made up lost ground, the Hitech Grand Prix believes that his difficult Qualifying in Spa-Francorchamps was just a minor bump in an otherwise series of strong one-lap performances throughout the previous 10 rounds.
“It was definitely a very good race today, but we need to make our jobs easier by not making stupid mistakes in Qualifying like I did this weekend. Tricky weekend, very tricky, but I think Qualifying hasn't really been an issue this year. I think it was a bit of an outlier this round and the team all did a perfect job with the pit stops and everything, reliability. So, I think if we just keep pushing, we'll get good results.”
Rapidly climbing through the field throughout the 25-lap race, the Estonian had already managed to make up five places on the opening lap with a blistering getaway off the line. By the time those on the soft tyres began diving into the pits on Lap 8, he was up to 12th and on his teammate Marcus Armstrong’s tail.
Despite his sheer number of overtakes, Vips admitted he found it more difficult than he expected to make moves due to his opening stint not being as strong as he hoped, preventing him from fully benefitting from the Belgian circuit’s many passing opportunities.
“There were so many! Obviously, when you start last, you’re gonna overtake a lot of people when you finish ninth. There was one I nearly pulled off which was quite nice into Pouhon, but they got me back on the first lap. It was quite hectic, it always is when you start last, especially the first couple of laps.
“I think we lacked a bit of pace on the prime tyres, but I think then again that lack of pace helped our stint on the options. On the options I think we were the fastest. It wasn't particularly easy, and it wasn't looking great to be honest, but once we put the options on that kind of saved our race.”
Opting to start on the medium compound, Vips became the first of the alternative strategy runners to pit on Lap 15. Having dropped down from fourth to 16th with the stop, he remarked that he was amazed to see how quickly the soft rubber came to life. With the benefit of hindsight, he believes that extending his second stint even longer could have been possible and would have allowed him to move up more places, as the tyres didn’t hit their performance cliff despite the longer stint.
“Very quickly, actually. It was quite surprising, already by Turns 6 and 7 they were pretty much in. My middle sector on my out-lap was already like 1.5 seconds faster than how I ended my stint on the primes - the tyres came in surprisingly fast.
“I was a little bit initially, but they actually stayed on quite well and I think I ended my options stint maybe 1.5 seconds faster than I ended my prime stints. They didn't really drop off massively, we could have even pitted earlier.”
Whilst the upcoming round in Zandvoort will see Formula 2 make its debut there, Vips is one of several drivers with some experience around the twisty Dutch circuit, having last raced there in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship back in 2018.
That knowledge has given him some insight into how the weekend could unfold and Vips says a driver’s performance on Friday could be make or break for their chances due a lack of overtaking opportunities out on track.
“I just need to put a Qualifying lap together because there it's all about Qualifying, your start and that's the race pretty much done. You just need to have a clean pit stop and I think it's one of the toughest tracks to overtake on. I think Qualifying is the key there, but it really hasn't been an issue for us this year."