Jüri Vips says his expectations have risen following Free Practice at Le Castellet having topped the 45-minute session. The Estonian’s 1:46.501 was over a tenth quicker than next-best Ayumu Iwasa and he looked to be getting very comfortable very quickly around the tricky Paul Ricard circuit.
After climbing out of the car, Vips was positive about his morning’s work but acknowledged that the conditions were set to swing completely in time for the Qualifying session later on Friday afternoon.
“The feeling so far is very good, I’ll be working very hard to continue that into Qualifying on the different compound.
“It was surprisingly good. I thought it was going to be quite bad but we didn’t do that many laps. I think in the races it will be probably more demanding on the tyres and on us as well. But during Practice, it was ok.”
So far this season, Vips is yet to take a victory while teammate Marcus Armstrong claimed a second win of the campaign for Hitech Grand Prix last time out during the Spielberg Sprint Race. It’s something that has surprised the Estonian having shown decent pace all year long.
Vips has three podiums to his name but admits he has been disappointed to not stand on the top spot. His P1 in Practice has set him up nicely for the remainder of the weekend in France, but he knows there is still work to do in order to solidify the advantage, something he and the team were unable to do last time out around the Red Bull Ring.
“We’ve been working very hard this year to get the car fast and we have been fast all year. We were expecting to be quick but I think not as quick as we are now. It just shows that our hard work is paying off, but we have to carry it forward.
“We had a good shot for victory last time out but the pit stop unfortunately didn’t go our way. It was a difficult race for everybody, a lot of people made mistakes but we’ve started this weekend off strong and if we can continue then I’m sure we can have a good weekend and finally the result to match.”
Looking ahead to the all-important Qualifying session, Vips is expecting an altogether different challenge to the ones drivers faced in the morning. Along with the track and air temperature changes, the switch to the soft compound tyres will shake up the order further.
Drivers were nursing their tyres in the midday heat but some further tweaks to the car set-up prior to the session commencing could keep Vips in the window and in the fight for pole position.
“It’s going to be a lot more grippy than in Free Practice. They changed the hard compound this year so I would say another step harder than it was last year. The difference between the compounds is much bigger now, so it will feel completely different and it’ll be down to who adapts the best for the pole. From the team side, if you have to set the car up quite differently between the compounds then it’ll be about who can make the best changes.”