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Autosport Top 50 of 2023: #40 Frederik Vesti

Frederik Vesti finished a close second to Theo Pourchaire in Formula 2 after a superb sophomore year in the series on his switch to Prema.

Despite six wins and four further podiums, the Mercedes junior trailed his consistent ART rival by 11 points, but Vesti put in some champion-worthy drives, including a last-round charge to win the Abu Dhabi sprint.

The Dane cruised to victory in a dramatic Jeddah feature race, converted pole in the Monaco feature, and collected further sprint wins at Barcelona, Silverstone and Monza during his title chase. There were some torrid lows along the way – a reconnaissance-lap crash at Spa among them – but Vesti’s class shone throughout.

Why Vesti beats F2’s champion into Autosport’s top 50

Readers may be wondering why a spot in the top 50 was given to Vesti as the F2 runner-up, and not champion Pourchaire. There are clear arguments for both to be included. The Frenchman was more consistent and ultimately won the title, making his a compelling case.

PLUS: The top 10 performers on F1's undercard in 2023

But with six wins to Pourchaire’s one – the same as series journeyman Ralph Boschung – Vesti’s peaks were higher. And the 21-year-old’s relentless determination, even in the dying moments at Abu Dhabi when the championship was realistically out of reach, proved him an admirable title contender.

Vesti won the most races in the 2023 F2 season, including dominating the Monaco feature race from pole (Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd)

The aforementioned Spa shunt on his way to the grid may have looked amateurish, but it shouldn’t cloud the fact that other moments hold up as truly brilliant performances. He won by 13.4s in the wet at Silverstone, and led 146 laps across the season, a full 62 tours more than next-highest Ollie Bearman. Pourchaire by contrast led just 36 laps.

Leading the standings after his controlled Monaco showing, the Prema driver held his advantage all the way until Spa. Ultimately, were it not for the fluke incident at Zandvoort when both his rear wheels fell off after a double-stacked pitstop, Vesti would likely have been crowned champion, given Pourchaire had crashed out of the same race.

Pourchaire matched his tally of 10 podiums, including six second-places, to take the title but his feature race win in Bahrain (the year’s most dominant, with a margin of 19.6s) was the Sauber junior driver’s only visit to the top step of the podium.

There were plenty of high points for Pourchaire, with two runner-up finishes at Spa where Vesti faltered - proving pivotal in the title fight. He came close to a second victory in Melbourne, and would have still led the standings with sprint races discounted.

But one can’t help but think he should have done more winning, especially when his rookie team-mate Victor Martins also scored one victory. The reigning F3 champion also took more pole positions (three, joint highest with Bearman) than Pourchaire’s two and Vesti’s one.

Pourchaire’s title was much deserved, and the 20-year-old put in some strong drives, but more dominance should be expected of a third-year driver: the kind seen in 2022 from Felipe Drugovich, who won five times to truly put his stamp on proceedings.

Vesti likely would have been crowned champion without his freak incident in Zandvoort (Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images)
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