Starting on the offensive with a rapid opening to the Sprint Race, Frederik Vesti was eventually forced to go on the defensive to hold on to his place inside the points.

Relieved to have salvaged two points in seventh from ninth on the grid, the PREMA Racing driver admits there’s work to do if he hopes to secure another victory in the Feature Race and give himself some vital breathing room in the Championship fight.

“I had an amazing start, I went from P9 to P4 by Lap 3, which was amazing. I was really, really impressed with the car and the decision I made. I was really happy with how I approached that; my start especially was good. I think I overtook two or three people before Turn 3, so that was really nice.

“But quickly I could feel that we didn’t really have the car underneath us. The tyres were degrading quickly and it was just a difficult car to drive. So, it was more survival to be honest and to get two points is a bit more luck than anything I think, with what we had to fight with.

“I know PREMA, I know they’re really good at understanding the data and understanding how we can improve for tomorrow. So, that’s our very important job now for us drivers and the team to try and maximise the car because obviously we’re starting 1-2 for the Feature Race.”

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Firing up the middle of the pack at lights out, the momentum was with Vesti as he dispatched Victor Martins and Zane Maloney off the line before firing his way past Dennis Hauger and Ralph Boschung. Up to P3 by Lap 3, instead of catching up to title rival Théo Pourchaire ahead, the Dane spent the latter have driving on his mirrors.

Duelling side-by-side with Martins, he ultimately yielded to the ART Grand Prix’s superior pace. Their duel allowed a queue to form behind with Jack Doohan also finding his way through and Ayumu Iwasa hounding him in a sprint to the line. Whilst teething problems on Saturday don’t necessarily translate into major problems on Sunday, Vesti is prepared to put the work in to avoid repeating the same drop off in pace.

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“It was very difficult, it was really just about survival, trying to pick up a few points and trying not to make a silly mistake because obviously you don’t want a penalty for tomorrow or damage the car. It was risking it all, but without making mistakes. So, a difficult race for sure and a race that I don’t want to have again.

“Obviously, it’s not what you want on a Saturday going into a Sunday where you want to fight for the victory, but it’s not the first time it’s been like that. I think any team this year will experience it at some point and we just need to understand and improve. The car was not terrible, we scored points. We went from P9 to P7 and we were actually fighting for the podium at some point, it’s just understanding why we were weak at the middle to the end of the race. Then, I’m sure we can fight for the win tomorrow.”

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With the both the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championship fights hanging over the final race heading into the summer break, Vesti has seen his 11-point advantage reduced to seven. Yet despite the noise surrounding him, the Mercedes junior has got one single-minded goal – to win.

One major factor to overcome will be his teammate, polesitter Oliver Bearman. As the two PREMA Racing cars saddle up alongside one another on the front row, Vesti acknowledges that it will be a tough balancing act, but that a fifth win of the year is there for the taking.

“I’m here to win! The only way I can win the Championship is if I continue to win races and take pole, so that’s my continued focus. I really want to win, so let’s see what we can do. It’s going to be an interesting race with the strategy and my teammate as well. If I maximise everything I can from my side and the team, I’m pretty sure we have a very good chance.

“We’re teammates, we need to maximise the team results of course, but we are also two individual drivers fighting for one Championship. In the end, we need to drive with respect between each other and of course, we will do that. But I’m there to win, so I will go for it.”