Danish driver Frederik Vesti has been noted as flawless on track. The Mercedes Junior sits down with ATRL’s Immy Cousins to discuss his return to Prema this year, his time with Mercedes, and his racing hopes.
February 15, 2023
Frederik Vesti is a Formula 2 driver, making his debut in the series in 2022 for ART Grand Prix. Having worked his way up the ranks of the junior series since 2016, he heads into 2023 looking for the championship title. Alongside his feeder series campaign, Vesti continues his work as part of the Mercedes Junior Team where the Dane works on the simulators having also driven for the team at the 2022 Post-Season Test in Abu Dhabi. We sat down with Frederik to talk about his journey to Formula 2, becoming a Mercedes Junior Driver, and his hopes for the future.
Let’s start with the ATRL Classic: Rank strawberries, raspberries and blackberries from your most favorite to least favorite.
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries.
What are three role models you had growing up? Driving or not!
Definitely my dad. He’s always working so hard and giving me the opportunity not only in racing, but just in life generally. Secondly, I would say Sebastian Vettel was quite a big driver when I was growing up and starting to race. I used to post every time he won on my Facebook when I was like 10 years old! The final person, I would like to say Michael Mortensen, my long term sponsor who passed away [in 2022], but he had been there with me for four years in a row with racing. It was me, my manager, my dad, and Michael.
What is your best racing related memory?
All the wins, all the pole positions I’ve had. Pole position means a lot to me. Probably the one in Austria in Formula 2, because from the start of F2 I was struggling so much in qualifying and then getting that pole.
What is your favorite thing to do in your free time to relax?
Definitely training! I feel very bad if I don’t train. Also getting a good rhythm. As racing drivers we have no rhythm in our job. Being home and having food, training, seeing friends, like a normal rhythm is actually quite nice.
Which three drivers would you take with you on a road trip?
Oof! Definitely Ollie Caldwell because he’s my best friend. Probably Oscar Piastri as well. And maybe Lando Norris.
Oscar Piastri or Logan Sargeant?
Oh. Is that…how, how can I choose? I can’t choose. I will say both of them!
Okay. I will say Oscar because he won all three championships in a row. He did a very good job.
So it’s Spotify Wrapped season, what songs or albums have you been listening to recently?
Imagine Dragons was my number one, I quite like that.
What is your guilty pleasure TV show?
Young Sheldon! It’s not in Denmark, it’s only when I’m in the UK that I can watch it. I love watching that at the moment.
Have you got a favorite food you’ve discovered from another country?
In Italy, I love pizza.
Teach us a fun phrase in Danish!
Rødgrød med fløde. It’s basically impossible to say for anyone other than Danish people. The way we talk is very different to any other language. If you can say that, you’re Danish.
Going into more in-depth questions: You just had your F1 test, which Mercedes Trackside Engineers commented on as “faultless”. Do you believe the success of the test is a result of the key sim work you have done with Mercedes? What is the transfer like from the sim to the real car?
I definitely think that driving as much as I’ve done in the sim this year, which has been around 40 days – the reason why I live in the UK mainly – it has definitely helped me massively to get ready. The correlation between the sim and the car is so good that at some point during the test, I was experiencing deja vu in the middle of the corner. My brain was like, “Ah, been here before, it’s not that difficult”. And that’s just thanks to the sim and how awesome it is.
Is there anything you’ve learned from the post-season test that you’d like to take into your next season?
Definitely the way you handle the tyres in F1. You have the dash on the wheel with all the temperatures, the data, and it’s a lot more precise and accurate than in F2. In F2, we don’t really have sensors in the same way as in F1, so it’s either done by feeling or what the belief of the team is, whereas in F1, it’s always facts. Having done a full day and just looking at the data and trying to correlate the data to my feeling has suddenly opened up a whole new world, which is something I will be able to take into F2 as well.
What’s it like to have the support of such well rounded teams such as Mercedes?
It’s my dream, it’s been my long, long-term dream. I remember contacting Mercedes for the first time in 2018 and then at the end of 2020, finally getting the call and knowing that I was going to join the junior program was just so big for me. Since 2017, there has only ever been Mercedes. Other F1 teams could ask me, but I wasn’t going to say yes, because I only wanted Mercedes and I think that has driven me a lot and it’s still driving me to this day.
Looking to the future, are you hoping to get further roles with Mercedes?
Absolutely. I really see Mercedes as a team that takes care of their drivers. There’s some other F1 teams where it just feels like you’re in very quickly. But as quickly as you’re in, you’re out again, and Mercedes is a closer family. And as soon as you’re in, you’re in for the long term and I think that’s quite important for young drivers like me.
So what goals have you set yourself for the season ahead as you return to Prema for your second F2 season?
There’s no doubt my goal is to win the championship. But my goal is actually to be quite strict with myself and just remember the mini goals that will come throughout the season. We just did the post-season test, we’ve got some things that we need to work on both for the team and I. From my side, it’s to just stick to the present time and try to enjoy the moment and, and really understand what I need to do to become better. I’m motivated when I’m learning so I want to continue learning and continue pushing that development forward.
I suppose the grid changes quite frequently for that too, as well. That creates a new learning pattern, learning how to work with and against the other drivers on the track.
Learning is everything in F2 just to win. As soon as you stop that progressive curve of learning, it’s finished. Staying humble and just taking it race by race and really trying to tick all the small boxes, eventually will bring performance.
So you regard your return to Prema as “coming home”. What especially is it about Prema that creates that homely sense for you and what excites you the most about coming back to the team?
I had two good years with them winning the championship in Regional and being the most winning driver in my first year of F3. I think what is so special about Prema is the relationship they manage to get with the drivers. They don’t only invest in the car, they invest in the whole team’s performance and as soon as you understand that, you bring everyone together and everyone starts to work for everyone and not just for themselves. Prema has understood exactly how it works and that’s why they have won the amount they have in the last five years. They are just incredible.
You hear from a lot of drivers that have been through Prema that it is sort of a big family.
It’s quite interesting because it’s not like it’s set up fun. Other teams can try to bring it into their team but it’s not going to work because it’s coming from the family who owns Prema and it’s coming from so deep into Prema that it’s not something that is done just for the drivers. It’s a family thing.
You see a lot from the fan side as well, like especially a lot of the YouTube challenges and stuff.
Sometimes they’re a bit of a pain! But then it brings the team together and it brings a lot of fans to Prema. So it’s such a great thing.
You spent the 2022 F2 season with Theo Pourchaire, your teammate, as one of the title contenders. Is there any advice or knowledge you’re taking from him or even any other drivers on to your next season?
What Theo was quite good at this year was just getting the most out of what he had at the time. Of course, he didn’t have the best season that he had hoped for. But even then he still finished P2 and maximized especially in the beginning and the middle of the year. He really maximized his points, winning three or four feature races, and that put him into the title contention. Drugovich was quite far ahead, mainly just from staying quite consistent. But what he did was good as winning those feature races is important to get good points.
Consistency is important, but consistency doesn’t matter if you’re not fast. So it needs to be balanced. You need to push as hard as possible as well and then go for the gap if it’s there and that will cause mistakes. I’m not looking for a season which is just a smooth ride and see where we end. I’m looking to really push myself and everyone around me. If I make mistakes, okay, but then I’m sure I will come down a bit in the next race and then deliver so my goal is not to just be consistent.
Do you enjoy there being such tight margins in the championship as we’ve seen this season? Is the increased challenge something which drives you to succeed in the championship?
Absolutely. If you’re in a championship and it is too easy, and you’re just driving to win every weekend, it’s nice for the ego. But I think for development and everything we have to do as drivers it’s a lot better to have this really close competition. Of course, there’s drivers who are more consistent. For example, at the beginning of the year, I was nowhere. I was inconsistent. But in the middle of the year, I was consistently in the top three in quali for three or four qualis in a row. That is what F2 is like. If you get it right, you can really have a big benefit.
You’re known to occasionally stream on Twitch, what’s it like to be able to engage with your fans on a more relaxed level?
It’s good! I have so many people who are following me, are texting me. I like to give something back and let people into my life a little bit. Not too much, because I’m also a very private person! But I still like to give back to the people. Twitch just allows me to do that. I wish I was more consistent and did it on a regular basis, but I’m traveling so much and I also need time for myself. But at the times I feel like it, I just do it because I want to and I enjoy it. So there’s never any reason behind it other than I want to give something back.
So it’s a time for you to relax as well. You’re connecting with fans, but also you’re relaxing at the same time.
I wouldn’t call it fully relaxing, but it’s definitely a way to give something back to my fans who are always there when I’m racing, when I win and when I don’t win. That’s quite important. If you watch Twitch and see the chat, it’s always the same people who are there and I really respect the people coming back and that’s also why I want to do it.
Like Sarah, she’s one of your biggest fans.
Yeah! She’s probably the most engaging one too and has an Instagram fanpage (@vesti_archive). The next goal will be to reach 1000 followers which is quite cool for a second page. I’m trying just to help her push it forward.
Last winter, you worked as part of the ground crew for the private charter company JoinJet, how did that idea come to life and would you be looking to do something similar again?
We were not racing for three or four months. I knew the CEO of the company, and they started to sponsor me for 2022 so he asked me if I wanted to do some work there because I was just training and I didn’t know what to do for three months. I took all the courses because you can’t just work in an airport, you need to do a lot of courses. In November, December and January, I was almost in charge of the ground crew in the private jet company. It was just a time to switch up, do something else and gain confidence and just gain general knowledge. Honestly, the time where I’m the most happy is when I’m learning. If it’s learning in racing or learning somewhere else, I don’t really mind. I just need to be learning. I was learning for three months so I look back with good memories from that.
We’re lucky and privileged to be racing in Formula 2. But I just love to do something so different, which is such a normal job that none of us would imagine doing because we’re so lucky to be racing in Formula 2, but then to do it and to show everyone that I actually am a normal guy and I like to do normal things. That was also part of the motivation.
Who in your life has had the most shaping influence on your career?
My father and also my manager, Dorte Riis Madsen. My father helped a lot in the early stages and until I was 16-17. He’s still there every single race weekend, pushing me and asking me the right questions. After I turned 17, Dorte got on board and has actually been working full time on my project only for five years now. If it weren’t for those two people, I wouldn’t have been racing today. I have a lot of love for them in my heart but you can’t lift this much of a challenge by yourself. I owe them a lot. They are here with me and we motivate each other. It’s a really good relationship and it’s absolutely what is needed to get to Formula 1. F2 is such crazy numbers, in terms of budget and everything that it is simply an impossible task, if you don’t have the right people around you.
You’ve noted your love of presenting motivational speeches to young children in schools. Can you talk a little bit more on why you enjoy it?
I’ll tell you how it started and it was not fun! My dad pushed me very hard when I was young to do it. Without me knowing, he arranged with my own school that I was going to do a speech about my go karting when I was 10 years old. Of course for my dad and myself, it felt big, but I was literally just doing karting in Denmark and I was winning. I had won two championships, but you know, it wasn’t very big compared to where we are now. But still, it was my first ever time standing and speaking in front of maybe 100 people my own age and it was very, very difficult to do. But at the same time I loved presenting my journey of how I got to karting, because my dad is a completely normal man. He does not have a heavy wallet. We have managed to get here by motivating and getting people on board for our project without putting in a lot of money because we don’t have it. I just want to show people that it is possible and let them feel that as well.
It’s connecting your normality to this big wide world. Maybe you only see it on television but like “I was you once so this is what you can do”.
So many people are saying now “I can’t do this because I don’t have the money” or “I don’t have a father that wants to help me”. You need some things to push you. I had my father but it is also possible to make it work if you really dream it and believe it every single day.
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