With a massively revamped grid, strong second years, and a plethora of dazzling new rookie drivers for 2020, Formula 3 is set for another barnstorming year, and Frederik Vesti believes his experience at the 2019 FIA F3 World Cup will give him an edge as he enters the next chapter of his fledging career.
The Formula Regional European Champion continues his association with PREMA Racing and faces the daunting task of following in the tyre tracks of the team’s outstanding trio from 2019. Robert Shwartzman, Marcus Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala were near on untouchable last season, taking the top three spots in the Championship and helping the Italian outfit to the Team’s title.
The Dane believes his experience in Macau, where he raced on arguably the most challenging circuit on the planet, will stand him in good stead ahead of the season opener in Bahrain next week. Not least of all, to rid him of a few pre-race nerves.
“Just sitting on the grid, performing a start, is difficult the first time,” he admitted. “Once you have done it a few times you start to feel more confident. It is definitely a benefit to me that I have already been through that.
“Racing in Macau is probably the most difficult thing for a driver, so I think that has really put my, let’s say, personal limits forward. Coming back to the European tracks, it may be easier to drive and reach the limit, because Macau is very difficult - it is all or nothing.
“You really have to trust these cars and in Macau that’s even more difficult. I am very positive with the team: we are working extremely hard together and preparing everything for Bahrain. It is coming closer and I am very happy with that, I’m ready to go.”
The Dane was one of the major success stories from Macau. Stepping into F3 machinery for just the second time – following a three-day post-season testing stint at Valencia – he exceeded all expectations. Finishing outside of the top ten just twice across the event, and tenth overall in the main race, Vesti looks ready-made for the step up.
“What surprised me most in Macau was the amount of grip that the tyres have,” he continued. “It is really fast, but the grip was the most surprising because the cars have the big wings and the soft Pirelli tyres, which are very good. It is just amazing to drive, and I quite quickly felt comfortable with the car because of the grip.
“The most difficult part of stepping up to FIA F3 will definitely be those tyres. They will be difficult, but I’ll be putting in a lot of effort with the engineers, working out how to push, how to warm up, how to cool down, all of these things.”
At just 17-years-old, Vesti will be one of the younger competitors of a youthful 2020 field. The Dane has been working tirelessly over the winter period to ensure he is in optimum condition ahead of the opener, knowing full-well that a season of fighting at the front could further cement his status as one of junior formula’s most promising talents.
The continuation of his partnership with PREMA should also prove a key decision on his climb up the Road to F1 ladder. Familiarity with a team’s way of working cannot be understated, while their performances in 2019 mean they enter the season as favourites to retain the crown.
“We want the same thing and every day when we wake up, we work for the same thing. For me, I think that is a good benefit, I know how the people work in PREMA and I know how they want me to work.
“The aim for 2020 is to keep improving, mentally, physically and obviously in the car. I am very sure that if I keep improving the way that I did last year, with a humble attitude, and keep working hard every day, then the results will come by themselves. I don’t really want to put a number on it, but I know that if I focus, then the results will come.”
Another key element in the success or failure of Vesti’s maiden F3 campaign will be momentum. Few drivers can claim enter the season in as prolific form as the Dane. A five-time title winner in his karting days, he stole the Formula Regional European crown on the back of 13 wins and 20 podiums overall from just 24 races.
If he can carry over anywhere close to that level of consistency, then he’ll be a force to reckon with.
“That’s something that I have thought about a lot,” he said. “For me, it’s what I see as the most important thing. Then, looking at what I can improve from last year, both for myself and for my preparation and development as a driver.”