Taking us right back to his karting roots, Frederik Vesti is the latest driver to reflect on his greatest race ever and a pivotal moment that kept his dream to be a driver alive, putting him on the path towards eventually getting to Formula 2.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the PREMA Racing driver hit and all-time low. Ultimately, the Dane’s ability to bounce back no matter what built himself back up to glory.
“It was back in go-karting in 2015. I was 13 years old, and it was the final race of the year. I’d had the worst year of my career so far; it was absolutely terrible and for the last race my dad offered me to either stop that year and save the money or to change to a top team and pay a lot of money for the last weekend.
“I of course said I wanted to give it a chance and go to the top team and I ended up winning this race. It was the WSK Final Cup at Adria in Italy and that was the race I’d been looking to win since I started racing, so it was quite big.
“It was one of those races where I had no expectation to win at all. I qualified P6, but I was just grateful to be in a good go-kart and I didn’t really think that I was going to win. I think the main thing was that I didn’t expect to win, and this put me in the right mindset for everything because I had nothing to lose. All I was doing was driving on my talent and my motivation.
“The beginning of the race actually went terrible. I started on pole position because I had raced really well in the qualification race and that put me on pole for the final. Then I went all the way down to P6 by Lap 8 of 15, so I had lost a lot of positions, but my go-kart kept going faster. The race sort of came to me, I overtook five people and won the race.
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“I remember there was one overtake that stood out which got me on to the podium. Right after I overtook them, the guys behind me crashed and that gave me even more space for the podium and even more motivation to make it to P1. There were some close moments, but especially the whole journey from starting on pole, going back to sixth and then getting back to P1 is something that you only see in karting. It was really something I remember as my greatest race ever.
“I can’t explain with any words how it felt to take the win because it was the culmination of something I wanted for five years – I sacrificed everything, but also the culmination of having such a bad year where I went from being the biggest talent in Denmark to almost not racing the year after because it was such a hard year in the team I was in.
“Then moving to a new team and getting that energy from that race win meant everything and it put all of the belief that I had lost throughout out the year straight back into me. Since then, I’ve been working to put myself in the position I am today.
“I’ve won races now in Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Regional and in F4 and on paper they’re much greater victories and mean a lot more, but to me that victory means everything. It’s a trophy that I still have and it’s one where all the memories come flooding back. I think to have had such a strength in the past and such a strong memory helps me in the situation I am now because I feel I’ve experienced something which is so great. It sort of helps keep the whole F2 thing a bit on the ground.
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“The easy thing to say I learned from the race would be to never give up. That’s probably what everyone would say, but also to take a chance. I took my chance, and I believed in myself that if I took that chance and I would do well, I would give myself the opportunity to continue. I could have also just stopped and said okay, I’m not good enough or I can’t make this work, but obviously my dad pushed really hard, and he was really good at giving me the right opportunity at the right time.
“The belief I had after I won the race is still in me and it’s crazy to think I’m 21 years old, it happened eight years ago, and that belief is still in me. It’s what drives me as a racing driver, it’s the feeling of doing that race weekend. I’ve had many experiences almost like that where I’ve gone from last to P1, but this experience really beats all of them. I take away all the feeling and emotion from the race because it was so good.
“It’s difficult to say what would have happened if not for this race. I would still have done the same journey the next year, but I’m not sure if I’d have had the same sponsorship, the same approach or the same confidence. At that time before the last weekend, I was completely finished. I had no mental energy, no motivation and I didn’t even know if I had forgotten how to drive a go-kart. I got back into a good machine, a good go-kart and did well.
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“It was a relief for the whole year because it was more the karts and the engines from the top teams that had made it possible for the drivers to do well. It’s funny because some of the drivers that are racing in F2 like Clément Novalak I was racing against in go-karts, so it was quite fun.
“I still have the trophy. It’s in a very proud place with around 200 other trophies, but it’s the main one. It’s still the biggest one to be fair, even the F2 trophies are smaller than the WSK. I didn’t really have a chance to celebrate, I was just so tired, and I had a flight to catch to go back home. I just remember putting it on my social media and my family and everyone was just so happy that we made it work.”