I sat down with one of motorsports’ rising stars, Frederik Vesti, to get to know his racing life from its early starts until now and the future.
Frederik Vesti is a Danish racing driver that currently competes in the FIA Formula 3 Championship with ART Grand Prix. Vesti races in the championship since 2020, with his first season being the Prema team, with which he competed in the Formula Regional Series back in 2019.
The purpose of this feature series is to know the current rising stars in more detail; we want to know their background, their ambitions, and their aspirations, and we hope that such articles will help you, our readers, get a closer connection to the personalities of the sport.
Frederik Vesti was born on the 13th of January of 2002, in Denmark. He started racing a go-kart at the age of 8, recalling his father used to race Rally and Motocross, and with brothers also racing a go-kart, it was natural for him to follow the same steps.
“My whole racing career started back in 2010 when I got my first go-kart via my father. He’s always been racing in rally, go-kart, motocross, and also in touring cars, mainly in Denmark but also in Germany.
“Both of my brothers [were] go-karting when I turned eight, so it was quite natural for me to get a go-kart when I turned eight.
“So I got the go-kart and started driving. I was quite scared in the start actually, with all the vibrations and the sounds; you’re still young when you’re eight. But I very quickly started to enjoy racing, and then after a few months I loved it so much that me and my dad [were] driving three to four times a week, with, I think, a record of 14 weekends in a row of go-kart race weekends.
“It has always been a dream, always been really fun. Never felt like work, and I think that’s one of the important parts of having a career.”
Vesti started racing single-seaters at just 14 years of age, in Denmark’s Formula Ford series. He finished fourth in the championship with 2 victories and 8 podiums; an incredible achievement for someone who was the youngest of the grid.
“I was 14 years old. By far, the youngest guy on the grid. It was quite a challenge, but, in a way, I’m happy we did it because I got a lot of experience from an older car with no downforce or anything, so just a lot of laps in a cheap way as well, because we didn’t have much money to go racing in Formula 4 straight away.
“My most memorable [moment] was probably the win in Ring Djursland, my first win in Formula Ford and single-seaters. It had been a tough season and I finally [had] put everything together and got that win.”
But not everything is motorsports for racing drivers; Vesti was a young, 14-year-old kid from Denmark who had other obligations, like education.
“School has always been very important for me. Not because I had to become something special and I need an education because my dream was always to become a racing driver and I believed that’s the thing I should do for the rest of my life, but I believe it is important to keep the brain active and keep it moving.
“I just enjoyed to learn every single day, but also to be social with my friends at school. I was a lot [of time] away, but when I was back at home, I just enjoyed a normal life. That’s quite important to maintain when you’re that young.”
2017 and 2018 were packed years for Vesti; he raced two seasons in the Formula 4 ADAC Championship, but also had outings in the US and Italian Championships, as well as having his first outings in the Formula 3 series.
“My first two years in international Formula 4 racing were very good for me, and also very challenging; I was also very young, the youngest driving in Formula 4 in 2016. I had just turned 15 and I was not allowed to do testing; both due to my age and also because we didn’t have the budget to do the testing.
“It was a very challenging first year, but I became better and better every single race; I ended up with 2 or 3 podiums and 1 victory in my first season.
“Then, I stayed another year in 2018 to go for the Championship, and this is one of the years when I realized the potential I had, but also what I needed to improve to become champion because I only finished P4 in that [year] and a lot of that was due to some bad luck with the car, but I also did some mistakes by myself and lost a lot of positions.
“And when I sort of realized that and understood how to move forward, I made some big steps and did quite well in my first outings in Hockenheim and Macau [Formula 3], I was the fastest in the team and I was doing some good job, and I was ready to move on to Prema in the formula regional in 2019.”
Frederik moved to the Formula Regional Series in 2019 with Prema, the team which would become his home for his first-ever Formula 3 season in 2020. He won the Championship with 13 victories and 20 podiums out of 24 races, and he describes his experience as a “great thing” after all the hard work that was required for the achievement.
“It was a great thing for me because no championship has been won without a lot of hard work. And to put in that work, to put in the work with my team and my engineer back then, who really worked hard for me as well to understand how I and we as a team could become better.
“And it didn’t come easy. But at some point, I won a few races, I learned a lot of things, and found a lot of confidence in myself; that sort of stuff helped me to improve and get better every single race weekend.
“And I think that was the key for my success and my success today, that I keep improving. Even though I’m doing well, or I’m doing bad, I keep improving in the same intensity every single day. I want to get better because that’s the only way I can become World Champion in Formula 1. That’s my mentality, and it’s helping me when it goes bad, but also helps me to stay on top when everything is going well.”
Vesti spent two years alongside Prema. As mentioned earlier, he raced for them in the 2019 Formula Regional Series, and then made the jump to the Formula 3 Championship. I asked Frederik to tell me how did Prema help him mature as a driver, and what is the key takeaway he makes from them.
“Prema helped me to become the driver I am today,” he said. “They’ve done a great job – my engineer and all the people at Prema. They did a really good job in teaching me the right thing; to push in the right moment, and to relax in the right moment.
“They have helped me activate the driver I am today, to always get the best out of me. And that’s what Prema helped me to do during the seasons I’ve spent with them.”
He made the move to Formula 3 in 2020, and he states the most challenging part of the switch was testing.
“The most challenging thing changing from regional was testing. I was a rookie and we didn’t have much testing due to COVID, and also due to regulations. So, basically, when we came in to do the racing, we did three days of testing in Bahrain and then we had the break of nearly two and a half months due to COVID, and then straight into the first race weekend.
“There was a lot of pressure to do well; not something that I was feeling, but you know, we only had three days which was nothing compared to over the 16 days of testing I had in Formula Regional. So, to adapt and understand the track and car is really essential for that championship.”
Talking about 2020, we all know the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic on motorsports; and I wanted to know how much it had impacted Frederik.
“It really challenged me in a way that I had to be even better, I had to challenge myself.
“We had three race weekends and one weekend off, three race weekends and one weekend off, which is something that is very rare to see, especially at this level in Formula 3; usually we have at least two weeks in between each race normally, so to race nine weekends in eleven weeks was tough, especially as a rookie, because I had to learn [a lot] of things.
“It’s very difficult to keep up when you have to process everything in your brain, it takes some time, and when you only have a few days in between each race weekend at a different track, and a different environment, is very difficult. And that’s what I found most difficult last year.”
Vesti was paired with Oscar Piastri, who now moved to Formula 2, and Logan Sargeant for the 2020 Formula 3 season. Having such strong teammates is difficult for some, but Frederik thinks otherwise. He believes having such a strong team helped everyone develop into better racing drivers.
“I think, as a team, we were really strong. We had good drivers and we could really help each other grow. Sometimes I would be the fastest, sometimes Logan would be the fastest, you know, we would just look at the data and understand each other why was it going well for someone and why was it going less good for another one, and, to be able to do that, is really important.
“You always want to beat your teammate, so that can be difficult as well, but as soon as you get the hang of that and you understand that you need to [focus] on yourself, you can change. Then, it’s quite easy to do it and you need to push yourself to beat them and to become better. That’s how I’ve worked with it last year.”
Frederik finished fourth in his first Formula 3 season. His teammate Oscar Piastri was the Championship winner that year, so I asked him what his realistic expectations coming into the first season were. Was he expecting to win a championship right off the bat, or he was expecting the kind of results he had?
I expected to win. I believed I could win, I was the guy who won the most races in the season.
“I had the pace and the talent to do it. I was a bit off on two weekends where I didn’t achieve the things I needed to achieve, I had a mechanical failure in Barcelona, and I had two crashes that same weekend with 0 points in Budapest.
“But I did pole position, won the most races of the season, did fastest laps, and I scored a lot of points in the short amount of weekends. So, going into the season, I wanted to be champion, that’s what I work for. I didn’t become champion, but I showed that I could have become champion if everything went my way; which it didn’t.
“But I’m back for another season this year and I’m excited to keep extracting the maximum from myself every single time I’m in the car.”
Now, coming into 2021, Frederik will continue in the Formula 3 Championship with ART Grand Prix (more on that later), and I first wanted to ask him his thoughts on the new format which was introduced for both his championship and Formula 2.
“I think the new extra races are really interesting for the championship. We saw the race in Bahrain in F2 and is interesting to see. I think for the drivers it’s quite frustrating, at least if you’re really fast in qualifying. But in a way we can’t change it, it’s good racing. And if you love racing like I do, it’s no problem to have more races per weekend, so I’m excited to start racing again this year.”
He also commented on this year’s calendar, which is shorter than last year’s. However, he thinks it is better than the current Formula 2 calendar and states his only wish would be to race in Macau if the pandemic allows it.
“I actually think that the F3 calendar is amazing; looking at the tracks we’ve got compared to Formula 2 for example, I think Formula 3 has great tracks for racing, and I’m just looking forward to race.
“But, of course, I would love a longer championship. Seven rounds is not a lot, so you need to get the most out of every single round, which is going to be key for the championship.
“But with the tracks we have, I’m really happy. I hope with COVID and everything that Macau at the end of the year can happen as a one-off event like I’ve done a few years ago because it’s such a great race. So that would be the only race I hope would happen extra this year, but we’re not sure for now.”
This year we’ll see Vesti racing in Formula 3 with a new squad, and that is ART Grand Prix. He says the adaptation to his new team and teammates has “really been great” and much faster than he expected.
“It has been great; much better and faster than I expected. It’s impressive how well this team showed themselves with the way they work and the way they approach everything.
“In terms of myself, I’m trying to learn French [to integrate with the team], just because I think it can get me closer to the people I am working with. And, in the end, people are the key to success. I need to activate the best from myself, but also everyone around me so my team is the strongest possible.
“I feel I’ve found a great spot at ART. They trust me and I trust them as well, and we’re hungry to win the championship this year together.”
One of Vesti’s teammates for the 2021 season is Juan Manuel Correa, the driver who was involved in the 2019 Spa-Francorchamps Formula 2 accident which killed Anthoine Hubert. He’s making his return to racing this year in Formula 3, and I wanted to see what kind of relationship Frederik is building with him, as well as what are his takeaways from Correa not only as a racing driver, but as a human being after all of what he’s gone through, and the fact he’s still committed to racing.
“I am truly happy to see Juan back, I’m very happy to have him as my teammate. He’s very experienced, both in [Formula 3] and Formula 2. I think, this year, in ART, we have a very strong line-up with very strong drivers, and I believe that Juan can really help the team achieve big things this year.
“I think it’s great that he’s been able to motivate himself to come back after such a big hit; it’s been a lot of training, I speak to him in the track and he has to go through all the physical and mental training that I and every other driver is going through, but he also has to do all his re-hab as well, and I think that’s really impressive and I think that’s a good reminder to all the drivers and people in the team that you can do anything you want. So it’s good to have Juan, and he is a good teammate.”
Competition is fierce in motorsports, and drivers always have someone in the sport that they want to beat; a rival. I asked Frederik who his rival was, and he said that it’s difficult to give a name when racing in Formula 3 is at such a high level.
“We are in Formula 3, it’s a very high level of racing. I think I see a lot of people as challengers for the title. I mean, the top 15 or top 10 can or is going to win a race this year, so it’s very difficult to put a name or a few names.
But I believe I can do it and I can win the championship. But I also know the amount of work and concentration I need to put going into this season.
Finally, to conclude this feature, I asked Frederik if he had any talks with any Formula 2 team to move up the Championship, but he stated that staying in Formula 3 was his own decision – He wants to win the championship and prove himself once again before he commits not only to the sporting, but also the financial challenge of what is moving to Formula 2.
“After the last race at Monza, I sat down with my manager and my dad (…) and we discussed if we wanted to move to Formula 2 (…) [and] of course, as a driver, you have the dream of getting closer to Formula 1 when you’re in Formula 2, but it’s not true, because the results are the only thing talking in racing at this level. And if you’re not performing well in Formula 2, you will, for sure, never be in Formula 1.
“So I wanted to make sure that when I enter Formula 2 I am 100% ready and be the driver I need to be to have my Formula 1 seat. So we decided to stay another year in Formula 3, and in some ways, some people would say that’s even riskier because if I don’t win I don’t show the potential I have.
“But, I trust myself and I trust my talent, so I’m ready to stay another year in F3 and prove myself 100%.”
My discussion with Vesti didn’t finish here, and we talked about physical, mental, and financial details, but you will be able to have a read at that part of the conversation soon.
I want to thank Frederik Vesti for being such a cool and nice guy to me while doing the interview; and of course, to his manager Dorte for setting things up. I can’t wait to talk with him again soon!