With little margin for error, Vesti strikes pole in Spielberg: ‘The track is so small’

In a qualifying session in the Austrian mountains of Spielberg that threw up some surprises, it was Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti who scored pole position for the first time as a rookie in Formula 2. F1 Feeder Series spoke to the top three about the small margins at the Red Bull Ring.

By Tyler Foster

The on-track schedule at the Red Bull Ring for Friday afternoon was busy, with the Formula 2 qualifying session sandwiched between the F3 and F1 action. Jake Hughes of Van Amersfoort Racing was quickest in Practice earlier in the morning, and the ART Grand Prix teammates rounded out the top three, with Théo Pourchaire ahead of Vesti.

But in Qualifying, the story was very different, with traffic and track limits being the talk of the paddock. The short length of the Red Bull Ring, which has just ten corners spread over 4.318 kilometres, means that drivers have to contend with potentially lap-ruining traffic while on flying laps. Track limits are also a huge factor, with more stringent rules making the margin of error even slimmer than in previous years at the circuit.

Speaking to poleman Vesti, F1 Feeder Series asked how tough this circuit is to tackle in Qualifying and whether he prefers racing or qualifying around the Spielberg layout.

“The track is so small and not very long, and there is only ten corners, I think, which makes it very close. You can make one mistake and you can be off of the top five. So you need to put it all together to finish in the front, and that makes the Red Bull Ring very special, whereas for example in Silverstone last week, there is a lot of places that you can make mistakes. Here, it just brings the field a lot closer. And race or quali, I think it’s a good track either way.”

‘As fast as it can be’

While he may have been all smiles in the end, Vesti was without a flying lap in Qualifying with just over five minutes to go before putting in the time that sent him from the back of the field to the top of the timing sheet. Vesti’s impressive Qualifying performance comes after his previous best Qualifying of second at Silverstone just last week. For anyone who was unsure of Vesti’s talent, he has proven just why he is Mercedes’ most accomplished current junior driver.

F1 Feeder Series also asked him whether he and ART Grand Prix sacrificed any straight-line speed in order to gain time in the technical sectors in Qualifying.

“To be completely honest with you, I [leave] that with ART. I’m not fully sure. I believe the car is as fast as it can be going into the weekend. Of course, we do minor adjustments throughout the session and in FP. I can’t answer more precisely than that.”

Enjoying the circuit

Behind Vesti, Hitech Grand Prix’s Jüri Vips once again illustrated his talent to take second, and the in-form Logan Sargeant rounded out the top three.

“I enjoy both the races and the quali here. It is normally a little bit different here because the field is probably the closest it is the whole year. But also, the racing is quite nice with three long DRS zones, so I quite enjoy it,” Vips said about the Red Bull Ring.

“I let the team do most of the [set-up] work, but I think for Qualifying, everyone just runs max downforce because you always have DRS,” Vips continued. “You don’t really lose out on the straights anyway because [the DRS zones] start quite early, whereas in Baku the DRS line is quite late, so there is actually some benefit to running less wing.

“But for the race, it can be very interesting. You don’t have DRS all the time, so I think there could be some playing with that tomorrow.”

“In general, it’s a really good track both for qualifying and racing,” said the American rookie Sargeant. “Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating when the track makes it quite easy to go over track limits, which isn’t always the nicest feeling. Other than that, I would say it’s good overall.”

Pourchaire saved by deleted laps

Championship leader Felipe Drugovich didn’t have a bad day by any means, qualifying P5, but he certainly wasn’t at his best. He still achieved a better result than did his closest championship rival Pourchaire, who, unlike his teammate Vesti, struggled and only qualified ninth.

Going into the final few seconds, Pourchaire was actually outside of the top 10 and was facing the prospect of a tough weekend with slim chances of scoring points, but a series of lap-time deletions due to track limits violations helped the Frenchman rise back into the top 10. He will start in second for the Sprint Race on Saturday, behind reverse-grid pole-sitter Marcus Armstrong.

Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Limited

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