Estonian racing driver Jüri Vips is to become full-time test driver for the Red Bull Formula One team for the remainder of the 2020 season. Test drivers often end up getting a full drive in motorsport's top tier later on.
Vips, 20, from Tallinn was temporary test driver at the Turkish Grand Prix in mid-November after Red Bull's two test drivers were otherwise engaged, and only recently obtained his super license after meeting the required 300 kilometers' driving distance in an F1 car.
Vips was also backup for Red Bull's sister team AlphaTauri, at this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, itself a sister race to last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, portal Delfi writes (link in Estonian).
The place became free after one of Red Bull's previous test drivers, Sergio Sette Camara, joined the Dragon Penske team to race in the electric-only Formula E series, though whether Vips will be retained next season has not yet been confirmed.
Vips has had some races in Formula 2 (F2) with the DAMS team during the coronavirus-beset 2020 season, after a planned move to Japan's Super Formula Championship fell through, when a local driver was chosen as being a better bet given COVID-19 restrictions.
Marko Asmer, 2003 British F3 champion and Estonia's top-achieving open-wheel racing driver to date and himself a former F1 test driver with Williams, was also unable to confirm what will happen next season, ERR's sports portal reports.
Two races left in 2020 F1 season
Two races remain in the 2020 season, which saw plenty of rescheduling, delaying and rejigging due to the pandemic: This weekend in Bahrain followed by Abu Dhabi a week later. The 2021 season is due to start in March in Australia.
If Vips continues in F2 next season, he will be able to be on standby for those F1 races which do not appear on the same calendar as F2 events, otherwise he will be racing in F2 at the same race weekend as the full F1 Grand Prix.
Red Bull's current drivers are Dutch driver Max Verstappen, currently third in the drivers' table, and Alexander Albon of Thailand (ninth in the table), while Pierre Gasly (France, 10th in the table) and Daniil Kvyat (Russia, 14th) drive for AlphaTauri. Vips could be called upon to substitute for any of the four should something happen to them.
Last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix saw veteran French-Swiss driver Romain Grosjean suffer a fiery crash on the opening lap. While Grosjean escaped with minor burns, he will be replaced at Haas by Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of 1972 and 1974 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, for the Sakhir race at least.
Editor: Andrew Whyte