Top Estonian racing driver Jüri Vips has been temporarily suspended from the Red Bull Racing team pending an investigation into reports that he had used racist and homophobic language.
Vips, 21, has been competing in F2 with Hitech Grand Prix and is part of the Red Bull Junior Team.
He is the first Estonian ever to have taken the wheel of an F1 car at a competitive race weekend, again with Red Bull, at last month's Spanish Grand Prix.
Footage emerged on social media of him playing a first-person, live-streamed video game with another Red Bull youth program driver, New Zealander Liam Lawson, in which he is heard using the "N"-word. In a separate clip, Vips refuses to wear a pink baseball cap which Lawson had handed to him, stating that it was "gay".
In both cases Lawson appears to chastise Vips over his choice of language.
Following the wider exposure the incidents received via social media, Red Bull announced that it had temporarily suspended Vips and would be investigating the matter.
Red Bull announced via social media that: "As an organization, we condemn abuse of any kind, and have a zero-tolerance policy towards racist language or behavior within our organization."
Vips posted an apology on his own social media account, saying: "I wish to unreservedly apologize for the offensive language used during a live gaming stream earlier today. This language is entirely unacceptable and does not portray the values and principles that I hold. I deeply regret my actions, and this is not the example I wish to set. I will cooperate with the investigation fully."
Vips has been a part of the Red Bull youth program since the end of 2018, has raced in the F3 and F2 series in the ensuing years and tested F1 cars with Red Bull and its sister team, AlphaTauri.
In 2020, Red Bull Racing was at the center of another controversy after current F1 world champion Max Verstappen used offensive language over the pits-to-car radio following a collision during practice at the Portuguese Grand Prix. The incident prompted the Mongolian government to demand an apology from Verstappen and action to be taken
Editor: Andrew Whyte