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F2: The Frederik Vesti of 2023 is nothing new

Now back with PREMA, Frederik Vesti leads the F2 championship in his sophomore season. Will he enjoy as strong a summer as he did in 2022?

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Much has been said of Frederik Vesti’s form this F2 season. Many have contended that he looks like a new driver in 2023. That is doing him a disservice.

Frederik Vesti is in prime position to capitalise on a busy July as F2 heads toward the summer break. (Image Credit: @PREMA_Team on Twitter)

Vesti, the most senior driver in Mercedes’ junior programme, is enjoying a strong start to the F2 season.

110 points, three wins, and a handful of top-five finishes means he currently has an 11-point edge over his former teammate, Theo Pourchaire, atop the F2 drivers’ standings.

This has caused some to remark that Vesti looks like a new driver this season. That’s not quite how I see it. Renewed, maybe. But altogether new? No, no.

In his last season at PREMA before two years with ART, Vesti ran Pourchaire, and teammates Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant, close for the FIA F3 crown. The Australian driver ultimately came out on top, but Vesti was only 17.5 points back, and led the field in feature race wins, with three.

2021 proved slightly less fruitful, but Vesti retained his consistency en route to a second consecutive P4 in the FIA F3 Drivers’ Championship.

The Dane graduated to F2 with ART last season, and after a difficult start, he found his footing heading into summer. This was punctuated by a first podium in Spain, and a first win in Baku.

A number of strong weekends saw him close the performance gap to Pourchaire, who has a year’s more experience at the F2 level.

ART struggled collectively coming out of the summer break, but that didn’t stop Vesti from collecting a pair of P2 finishes at Monza in the penultimate round of the season.

Evolution, not revolution

Vesti too rejects the premise that he’s an entirely different driver in 2023, a year in which he’s been touted as a title protagonist from before the first lap time was set. Now back with PREMA, he’s a resurgent force.

“I think it’s an evolution of last year,” he recently told F2, in an interview with the series he currently leads.

“I think it was pretty clear last year that my season started out very bad and then, with time, it just became better and better, and around the summertime, I was one of the top-scoring guys in the Championship. I was just so far back in the points that I could not do a good job in the Championship.

“This year, obviously we had a bad start in Bahrain with no points but then we have sort of been at the level we need to be and roughly where I want to be. Obviously, we still need to improve things, but I don’t think it’s a different mindset, it’s an evolution.”

The silver bullet

Many of the 21-year-old’s struggles were predicated on poor qualifying results. Almost always in F2, a strong weekend is contingent upon securing a top-10 finish in the Friday evening session. If you don’t, you’re likely to endure a challenging weekend. That has been Vesti’s overarching weakness and his biggest hurdle to overcome. It’s something he’s spoken about before.

This season is the first time since 2019 that Vesti has led a Drivers’ Championship. (Image Credit: @PREMA_Team on Twitter)

“I haven’t been quite where I want to be in qualifying,” he added, still not completely satisfied with his development in that area.

“Taking pole positions and starting near the front helps in the feature race to score more points. I think that it’s been really good and just shows how strong we are in the races. We were definitely expecting to be at the top and that’s why it’s great to know that we’re here even though we haven’t had a clean season so far. So, to be this well placed in the Championship already is a really good thing.”

Last season, the Dane’s average qualifying position was 10.2, so P10, effectively, but he did manage a run of P2, P1, and P3 in qualifying during July’s opening three rounds, supporting Vesti’s own view of last summer.

He ended the month qualifying a relatively lowly P7 in Hungary.

This year, he’s improved his qualifying average to 6.3, or roughly P6, in reality. By Vesti’s own admission, there’s work still to do:

“I would say our goal remains the same, which is to be consistently in the top five in Qualifying. On our worst weekend, we need to be P5, and our best weekend we need to be P1.”

Ultimately, it’s easy to conflate evolution with revolution, and Vesti is most definitely enjoying the former, not the latter. Whilst he may be rejuvenated, we’re merely seeing more of a Vesti we’ve seen before.

And so, as the weather gets hotter, expect Vesti’s form to follow suit. Again.

Featured Image Credit: @PREMA_Team on Twitter

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