Juri Vips will keep his Formula 2 seat with Hitech despite being dropped from Red Bull’s driver programme and Formula 1 reserve role, but F2 itself has criticised the decision.
Red Bull had suspended Vips following his use of a racial slur on a Twitch stream earlier this month, then announced on Tuesday that it was cutting ties with him.
But Hitech team boss Oliver Oakes said he wanted to give Vips the “opportunity to redeem himself” by continuing to race in F2.
“I have made the decision for Juri to keep his F2 seat with Hitech for the remainder of the season, a decision we have seriously debated,” said Oakes.
“Allowing him to complete his season with Hitech is an opportunity for him to demonstrate, through his actions, the type of person he is.
“I have made it clear that I think the language used was totally unacceptable, but I choose to give him the chance to redeem himself.”
F2 immediately followed Hitech’s announcement with a statement intimating it wanted the team to take a different approach.
“Following the recent incident involving Juri Vips, F2 would like to reaffirm that the use of racist or discriminatory language cannot be tolerated in any environment,” it said.
“Hitech Grand Prix’s decision today is surprising and not one we would have taken.
“We will monitor the situation carefully with them to ensure that such behaviour is properly addressed.”
Oakes’ statement insisted Hitech had taken the situation appropriately seriously and that keeping his F2 seat should be regarded as Vips’ final chance to show the 21-year-old Estonian could make amends and deserved to continue his career on the F1 ladder.
“Hitech GP employs an inclusive workforce and has never condoned racism or offensive behaviour in any forms. That said, if we live in a society where no one can make a mistake, then genuinely apologise, have the chance for redemption and learn from it – what does it say about society?” Oakes continued.
“I don’t know why he said what he said. I don’t know why he was playing and streaming C.O.D. [Call of Duty] at that time of day. Certainly there are things that would have been far more beneficial for his career.
“What I do know is that having his contract terminated by Red Bull as a result of his actions is a crushing experience for him, a deservedly severe punishment.
“The reality is there will not be unanimous agreement whether that punishment is sufficient, and that is totally understandable.
“My own view is that no apologies or words alone are enough to mend the damage done. By allowing him to keep racing with Hitech, we are giving Juri the opportunity to demonstrate genuine and sincere remorse for his actions.
“He must now grasp every opportunity to do so. He needs to make lasting changes and not just short-term virtue-signalling comments.
“While this may not satisfy everyone, I believe we all deserve a second chance in life, but never a third.
“Juri’s self-respect, his reputation and his career are firmly in his hands.”