The F2 grid for 2022 is very unique, with ten F1-backed drivers and ten rookies, the amount of talent is juxtaposed with the varying degrees of experience. For Ayumu Iwasa, he is coming into his rookie F2 season as one of five Red Bull Juniors. In contrast, fellow F2 rookie Frederik Vesti is the only Mercedes Junior in the field.
By Tyler Foster
Both drivers spoke to F1 Feeder Series about the pressure of being in different F1 driver academies.
Frederik Vesti is entering his rookie year in F2 as the only Mercedes Junior. Staying with ART GP, he is partnering title contender Théo Pourchaire. Speaking on Thursday, Vesti spoke about his new teammate with positivity and nothing but praise. He called himself “lucky” to be next to Pourchaire, saying that the young Frenchman is “one of the most respected guys” in F2.
Vesti knows just how much pressure there is at this level but has a teammate who was in the exact same situation last year as him. Being with Mercedes adds an element of pressure that is unique and marks you as something special. We asked Vesti how this pressure made him feel coming into the season.
“There’s pressure you put on yourself. If I look at who last time was in ART in F2 as a Mercedes Junior, it was George Russell. I’m purely here because I have achieved what I have and I’ve convinced the right people, but at the same time, I cannot put endless pressure on myself because then I will not succeed.”
The comparison between Vesti and Russell will only add pressure for the 20-year-old Dane. One thing it illustrates is the clear level of intent that Vesti has. He understands just how competitive this field is, but still believes in his own ability amongst the field of talent.
“I’m here and I have a lot of things to learn and that’s purely what I need to focus on but I have really strong people around me who have done it before with drivers. I really need to trust the progress of that.”
With nearly half the field in F2 being graduates from the 2021 F3 class, we asked Vesti whether this would make things more competitive due to the continuation of any ongoing rivalries.
“Yeah, sort of. I will race against some that I have already raced. Of course, there are some that I haven’t, but we all know each other well. It’s good and exciting but we all want to finish P1 so it doesn’t really matter who we are racing.”
Iwasa, a 20-year-old from Japan, joined the Red Bull Junior Team at the start of 2021. He had a decent rookie campaign in F3 last year, finishing twelfth, with one victory and a further podium. Other than himself, experienced drivers such as Liam Lawson, Jüri Vips and Jehan Deruvala, as well as F3 Champion Dennis Hauger, are all fighting in the same academy this year with Red Bull.
“Honestly, I don’t care about that too much”, Iwasa said about the level of pressure between the Red Bull Juniors. “I am focusing on my racing improvement and results at the moment. It still does add a bit of good pressure. I’d like to win to impress them, but still I can improve a lot so I think I should not focus too much on that.”
With Iwasa being the least experienced of the Red Bull Juniors in F2 this year, perhaps not focusing on that battle is the sensible approach for someone who has switched teams since graduating F3 and joined DAMS.
Iwasa partners veteran Roy Nissany at DAMS. This will be a good teammate for Iwasa to have, as Nissany knows about the pressure of being in an F1 academy as he is with Williams himself. Plus, the combination of a talented rookie with an experienced head is always one that offers a lot of opportunities for the team.
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd
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