Red Bull junior Juri Vips says that Helmut Marko throws his academy drivers in at the deep end, but his success rate shows it works.
Vips has been a member of the Red Bull junior set-up since 2018, representing the Austrian outfit in the 2020 and 2021 Abu Dhabi Young Drivers’ Tests, while now he is contending for the 2022 Formula 2 title as he looks to follow in the footsteps of many Formula 1 stars to break into the series through Red Bull.
Formula 2 is the top class of junior racing on the way to F1, so it really is the perfect preparation for a young driver, but preparation is not exactly Marko’s style.
Instead, Vips explains that Marko likes to keep his drivers on their toes and create pressure.
But, with Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda and Alex Albon all now on the Formula 1 grid after graduating through the Red Bull academy, Vips is not about to question Marko’s approach.
“The first test I did in F1 was to get my superlicence, I had to drive 300 kilometres in an old car,” Vips recalled on the F1 Feeder Series podcast.
“I was in Japan, I had already missed half my season [in Super Formula due to Covid]. I got a phone call from Helmut: ‘Fly to Europe, in two days you get your seat and in three days you drive the 2012 F1 car’.
“Helmut likes everything to be done at the last minute, he doesn’t really want us to be prepared, he likes to throw us in the deep end, so to speak.
“I don’t want to question his methods, because almost half the [F1] grid is made up of Red Bull drivers, past and present. What he’s doing is clearly working.
“He likes to put the drivers under pressure. Especially at the beginning, when you first come in.
“Before my very first simulator session at Red Bull, I had only done two days in the simulator in my entire life. Surprise surprise, I sucked! The next day, I guess Helmut got the report, and I got a phone call saying more or less: ‘You suck, if you don’t improve, I’ll fire you’. I hadn’t even done a race for them, just a session on the simulator! It was nice to get to know each other like that!
“I knew he was just bullying me, and I was smart enough to know he wasn’t going to fire me because of a bad session on the simulator. He knew that it was on the track that it mattered.”
Vips could well make his Free Practice debut in Formula 1 this season, mow that it is mandatory for every team to run a rookie driver during two practice sessions over the year.
AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost previously let slip that Vips is expected to drive for Red Bull in these sessions, so this was something else which caught Vips off guard when the news was relayed to him, or did it?
“Thank you for letting me know!” he said with a grin.
“Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. We’ll see how the season goes. If it does happen, it will obviously be amazing.”