Red Bull set to cull F1 junior driver program
"You can’t develop a Max Verstappen every year"
Red Bull is taking the axe to much of its famous and notorious young driver development program.
Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon, Liam Lawson, Max Verstappen, and many other current and former F1 drivers were powered onto the grid by Red Bull’s junior program.
This year, there were two Red Bull juniors in Formula 3 and no fewer than six in Formula 2 - as well as several others in other categories.
But according to the Dutch publication Formule 1, Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner said recently that he wanted to reduce the number of juniors - perhaps in part contributing to rumours of arguments with Dr Helmut Marko.
"There have been no official reports from Red Bull yet," the magazine said, "but the departure of several names seems to be imminent."
David Dicker, CEO of the Rodin-Carlin F2 team, thinks his Red Bull-backed drivers Zane Maloney and Enzo Fittipaldi are among those who will feel the axe.
"The support for most of the guys in these junior teams is next to zero, from the information that I have," he told the Mirror. "They’re not going to be supported by Red Bull next year, as far as I know.
"Let’s face it, (Red Bull) already have more good drivers than seats, so what’s the point of trying?"
Dennis Hauger, another Red Bull-backed F2 driver, isn’t even waiting for an announcement, revealing on social media that he is "parting ways" with Red Bull at the end of the season.
"I’m grateful for their support over the years and ready to explore new opportunities ahead," he said.
Horner doesn’t deny that more oustings may be on the way.
"We’re not lacking talent in the organisation and Helmut has done a great job of identifying young talent, which is his primary role," he said.
"But you can’t develop a Max Verstappen every year. Talent sometimes comes in waves. It’s a tough programme, but then Formula 1 isn’t a finishing school - you’ve got to arrive as the finished product and the drivers who succeed get an opportunity."
Kuba Mikolajczak, a Polish journalist working for Viaplay, thinks Red Bull will line up with only two juniors in 2024 - Isack Hadjar, who will replace Tsunoda in Friday practice in Mexico this weekend, and the Fernando Alonso-managed and newly-signed Pepe Marti.
That will be bad news for Jak Crawford, Ayumu Iwasa and potentially others including former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya’s son Sebastian.
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