Estonian racer Juri Vips has been retained as a Red Bull junior driver, despite being fired from his role as the team’s test and reserve driver following a racist outburst online. Team principal Christian Horner confirmed today that Red Bull was keeping Vips on its roster as he continues his Formula 2 campaign with Hitech.
Red Bull launched an investigation into Vips’ behavior after the 21-year-old racer was heard using a racial slur while streaming a gaming session online. Immediately following the incident, he was suspended by Red Bull pending an investigation into his actions.
Once the investigation concluded, the Milton Keynes-based team announced he would be relieved of his duties as its test and reserve driver. This announcement was followed by a ‘surprising’ move from Vips’ F2 team, Hitech GP, which said he would be allowed to keep his seat for the remainder of the Formula 2 season.
Now, Sports Illustrated reports that Red Bull has allowed Vips to stay on its young driver program while he contests the remaining eight races in the 2022 season. As per Sports Illustrated:
“The PA news agency was the first to report the news. In an interview with the outlet, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said, ‘We have canceled our agreement with him 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’.”
A spot on Red Bull’s young driver program is a hot ticket, and I’m sure there would have been drivers queuing up to fill the gap if the team had let Vips go.
In the past, the training scheme helped current F1 world Champion Max Verstappen onto the grid, as well as Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and both current Alpha Tauri drivers.
The decision not to drop Vips from the program is a strange one. When the team sacked Vips from his testing role, it said it did “not condone any form of racism.”
Which begs the question, why does it want to retain its ties to a driver that it previously sought to distance itself from?