Vips still a Red Bull junior despite contract termination

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull junior driver Juri Vips. Monaco, May 2022.

Red Bull junior driver Juri Vips during the fifth round of the 2022 FIA Formula 2 Championship. Monaco, May 2022.

Although Juri Vips had his test and reserve driver contract cancelled by Red Bull after using a racial slur, he is still in the programme.

Red Bull announced, prior to the British Grand Prix weekend, that they had terminated the contract of Vips following his use of a racial slur during a Twitch stream.

It formed part of a disappointing lead-up to the event for Formula 1, with racial abuse by Nelson Piquet aimed at Lewis Hamilton from a 2021 podcast also coming to light.

With Red Bull announcing that Vips was no longer their test and reserve driver, citing zero tolerance for racism as they promoted Liam Lawson to the role, it seemed that Vips and Red Bull had completely severed ties.

However, as reported by the PA news agency, Vips, who remains in Formula 2 with Hitech, is in fact still a member of Red Bull’s driver programme.

Speaking to PA, Red Bull principal Christian Horner said: “We have cancelled our agreement with him [Vips] and that will undoubtedly give him time for reflection.

“Everybody at some point deserves a second chance, if they can show that they have really learnt from their mistakes.

“He is a young guy, a young kid, and we will be supporting him – even though he has had his agreement terminated – from a mental health and educational perspective. Hopefully he will learn from it.”

Hitech’s decision to keep Vips as part of their line-up was not welcomed by Formula 2, the series “surprised” that Hitech were continuing their association with the 21-year-old Estonian driver.

Horner stressed that this was the decision of Hitech alone, with Red Bull in no way funding Vips’ seat at the team.

“That is their [Hitech’s] decision and we are not funding that drive in any way,” he affirmed.

“That is purely the choice of that Formula 2 team and they have their own reasons for the actions they have taken.”

At the British Grand Prix, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, despite expressing support for Hamilton after the abuse from Piquet, was sadly booed by a section of fans as he walked the track on Thursday, and then again after qualifying.

Verstappen, who is in a relationship with Nelson’s daughter Kelly, denounced Nelson’s actions, but said that the three-time World Champion is not a racist.

Horner once again confirmed Red Bull’s disapproval of racist behaviour.

“It is hugely disappointing when you see the type of comments that are made,” said Horner.

“We are an inclusive team. We have a very young fanbase, possibly the youngest following in Formula 1, and that is incredibly important to us.

“And that is why we fully support all of Lewis’ actions and have our own initiatives that are going on internally.”