At the moment of his greatest victory, the otherwise calm and collected Juri Vips showed a rare burst of emotion. “This is incredible – what a sensational feeling! All the hard work over the past weeks and months has finally paid off. I am just so happy.” And then the newly crowned ADAC Formula 4 champion added wryly: “I may even do a merry jig at the championship ceremony.”
Which would indeed be understandable. The Estonian, who drives for the Italian outfit, Prema Powerteam, once again showed nerves of steel in the final race of the season. Although his team-mate and championship rival Marcus Armstrong (17, New Zealand) tried everything he could, attacking time and time again, Vips retained his slender championship lead to the finish.
In the end, Vips came third in the race behind team-mate Armstrong and first-time winner Artem Petrov (17, Russia, Van Amersfoort Racing). This was just enough to hold his closest pursuer at bay. A mere 4.5 points separated the new champion from the runner-up – the narrowest margin of victory in the history of ADAC Formula 4.
“We have a strong champion in this exceptionally strong series,” said Vips’s team boss Angelo Rosin. Marcus Armstrong and Felipe Drugovich (17, Brazil, Van Amersfoort Racing), who had come so close to taking the title themselves, also congratulated the new champion.
Juri Vips registered two victories this year, fewer than his two main opponents Armstrong (three) and Drugovich (seven). His two predecessors, Marvin Dienst (21, Germany) and Joey Mawson (21, Australia, Van Amersfoort Racing), also had more race wins in their championship-winning campaigns of 2015 and 2016 respectively. But none of them come close to matching Vips in terms of consistency. There was only one race in a long season of 21 in which Vips failed to finish in the points, a record unequalled in the history of the ADAC Formula 4 series.
While the opposition were always willing to take risks, which cost them vital points, Vips went for a strategy of control. Why take risks when every Top Ten finish counts towards the championship? “Mistakes are costly. The entire field and especially the front-runners are simply too evenly matched.” The Estonian teenager kept repeating this mantra, and he was ultimately proved right.
Vips had already spent one season contesting ADAC Formula 4 as a member of the Prema squad alongside the 2016 championship runner-up Mick Schumacher (18, Germany). In last year’s Best Rookie class, he finished second. Before entering the formula car arena, Vips was highly successful on the karting scene, winning numerous titles in his home country and also against international competition. And when Vips is not driving a racing car, he still leads an active life, playing football, skiing or running – the new champion evidently does not enjoy sitting still.
What comes next for the young Estonian is very much up in the air, and for the moment, he is quite happy just to enjoy his great achievement: “First of all, let’s relax and celebrate. Then we can think about the future. There are various options.”