The DAMS Formula 2 team has signed Red Bull junior driver Jüri Vips to take over from the injured Sean Gelael for the next three rounds of the feeder series at Spa, Monza and Mugello.
Gelael suffered a fractured vertebra at the end of the most recent F2 feature race when he was launched into the air by the kerbing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. He will be out of action for at least six weeks.
“Obviously, I’m pretty gutted that I am sidelined for the coming races. I hope that Jüri looks after my baby and I wish him and the team all the best as they head into the second half of the season.”
It will be Vips' first time in F2, having finished last year's Formula 3 season in fourth place, and picking up second in the Macau Grand Prix.
This year the 20-year-old Estonian had been expected to take part in Japanese Super Formula in a bid to earn more superlicence points to put him on the F1 fast track with the Red Bull junior driver programme.
However these plans were thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic leading to travel restrictions. Earlier this week Vips was denied entry to Japan meaning that he is unable to participate in next weekend's opening round at Motegi.
However that does mean that he's now him available to step into F2 in place of Gelael instead.
“I’m very thankful and happy for the opportunity that DAMS has given me,” said Vips on Friday.
“I know it’s going to be really difficult to just jump in with more than half the F2 season already completed," he acknowledged. "But I will do everything I can to give the team as strong as a result as they deserve."
At DAMS, Vips will be racing alongside Dan Ticktum, himself a former member of the Red Bull programme run by Dr Helmut Marko.
“I’m looking forward to working alongside Dan, who I’m sure will help me get up to speed, and we will aim to get good points for the team," Vips commented.
We have the pleasure to bring on board Jüri Vips, who’s a very talented driver and has showed his pace in junior categories," said team owners Gregory and Olivier Driot in a statement.
"It will be difficult to get started because he’s never driven in F2, so Spa is going to be more of a test than a proper race weekend."
Other Red Bull junior drivers currently taking part in F2 include Yuki Tsunoda and Jehan Daruvala, who are both driving for Carlin.
Currently fourth in the F2 driver standings, Tsunoda has been strongly linked with a future role in Formula 1 with Red Bull sister team AlphaTauri.
"Red Bull and Honda are supporting Tsunoda because he is a fantastic driver,” AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost told Motorsport.com's Italian language site this week.
“He is a very talented driver, he has so many qualities that he showed in Formula 3 last year and that he is showing again this year.
“He is still improving his performance, he is becoming more and more experienced, and I expect to have him - sooner or later - in AlphaTauri."