Author Archives: Daniel Yi

F1 Driver Development Programmes: Ferrari Driver Academy

Written by: Daniel Yi, Edited by: Morgan Holiday

The oldest and most successful team in Formula 1, Scuderia Ferrari, has come a long way with a rich history and heritage of drivers and championship wins. This team has seen numerous legendary drivers like Fangio, Lauda, Prost, Schumacher, Alonso, Vettel, and many more race for them throughout the years. Today, we look at the history and the talents who have come through and been a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy. 

The idea for the Ferrari Driver Academy was inspired by the signing of Felipe Massa. Back in 2000, the young and upcoming Massa bulldozed his way through Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup and Formula Renault 2000 Italy, winning both championships. This attracted the attention of several F1 teams, with Scuderia Ferrari amongst them. The Prancing Horse signed Massa secretly on a long-term eight-year deal, but did not immediately give him a race seat just yet. Instead, they loaned Massa out to the Ferrari-powered Sauber for 2002 and 2004-05, and got him to be their test driver in 2003, all while being under contract with Ferrari. From this, Ferrari was inspired to set up the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) in 2009. 

Former Drivers

The FDA has seen many talents come through its ranks. Here are some who have made it to F1.

Jules Bianchi (2009-14)

F1: Ferrari test/reserve (2010-11), Force India test/reserve (2012), Marussia (2013-14)

The late Jules Bianchi became the first member of the FDA after its establishment in 2009. Bianchi started karting at a young age and made his single-seater debut in 2007, where he impressed early on. Ferrari saw enough and signed him to the academy in 2009. Ferrari named him as their F1 test driver for 2011. For 2012, Ferrari loaned him out to Force India to be their F1 test driver. Bianchi then earned his first F1 drive with Marussia in 2013-14, performing admirably in a backmarker team and was poised to join Ferrari in 2015. What should have gone on to be a promising and successful career ended in tragedy with the passing of Bianchi in 2015, nine months after his horrific accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Today, the legacy of Jules Bianchi still lives on and the lessons learnt from his accident have saved other drivers from tragedy.

Sergio Pérez (2010-12)

F1: Sauber (2011-12), McLaren (2013), Force India/Racing Point (2014-20), Red Bull (2021-present)

Sergio Pérez was signed to the academy in October 2010. After finishing second in the 2010 GP2 series, Sauber then signed Pérez to race for them in 2011-12, where he performed well, picking up 3 podiums. At the end of 2012, McLaren signed Pérez to replace the outbound Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari released him from the academy. However, Pérez had unsatisfactory performances in 2013, leading him to be replaced by Kevin Magnussen and he moved to Force India in 2014. With Force India facing financial troubles in 2018, Pérez and others forced the team into administration, thereby saving the team from winding up and collapsing. Force India was then rebranded into Racing Point from 2018-20 after Lawrence Stroll’s purchase. Pérez maintained his solid performances and finally achieved his elusive race victory in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. Despite his performances, he was unfairly ousted not retained by the team for the 2021 season and Red Bull decided to sign him. It seems to be the best decision for him, where he has gone on to achieve another win and two podiums so far.

Lance Stroll (2010-15)

F1: Williams test (2016), Williams (2017-18), Racing Point/Aston Martin (2019-present)

Previously, Stroll was deemed to be unworthy of a race seat because many thought that his father splurged out cash and bought his way to F1. But let’s not forget that Stroll was actually talented and won championships in his karting days, leading the FDA to sign him. Stroll left the FDA in 2015 to become a test driver for Williams in 2016. He then raced for Williams from 2017-18, becoming the youngest rookie to achieve a podium during the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In 2019, under much controversy, Stroll moved to Racing Point, which was owned by his father. He remained at the team for 2020, picking up two podiums along the way, and was retained for the 2021 season after Racing Point rebranded to Aston Martin.

Raffaele Marciello (2010-15)

F1: Sauber test/reserve (2015)

Marciello first joined the FDA in 2010 and went on to have a stellar junior career, having several top three finishes in various series and winning the F3 European Championship. After a two-year stint in GP2, Sauber signed Marciello as their test driver in 2015. However, he was dropped for 2016 and subsequently left the FDA due to personal reasons. He spent another year in GP2 before making the move to GT racing in 2017 and competed in various GT racing series where he remains until this day.

Antonio Fuoco (2013-18)

F1: Ferrari test/simulator (2019-present)

Fuoco joined the FDA in 2013 and immediately showed potential, winning the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps series and the Florida Winter Series by the FDA. After competing in F2 from 2017-18 as well as a test/reserve stint in Formula E, Fuoco did not continue with the FDA. Instead he was promoted to a testing/simulator role with Ferrari in 2019 where he remains to this day.

Guanyu Zhou (2014-18)

F1: Renault/Alpine test/reserve (2020-present)

Zhou joined the FDA in 2014. After a runner-up finish in Italian F4 in 2015, he moved to F3 for 3 years. Despite having some consistent improvements, he had no outstanding seasons in the 3 years. He left the FDA in 2018 and was signed to the Renault Sport Academy in 2019 where he started competing in F2. Zhou is currently competing in F2 as of now and is concurrently serving as Alpine’s test/reserve driver since 2020.

Charles Leclerc (2016-17)

F1: Haas, Sauber, Ferrari development driver (2017), Sauber (2018), Ferrari (2019-present)

Arguably the most successful out of the FDA graduates and the first FDA member to graduate to Ferrari, Charles Leclerc is a household name for every F1 fan. Leclerc joined the FDA in 2016 and instantly made waves as he won the GP3 series. He moved on to F2 in 2017 and served as a development driver for Haas, Sauber and Ferrari, appearing in several tests. Leclerc won F2 and earned a race seat with Sauber in 2018, impressing in his rookie season. After Ferrari signed him in 2019, he followed it up with excellent performances, qualifying on pole seven times, winning two races and earning ten podiums en route to fourth place in the championship. He remains with Ferrari today, still demonstrating his world-class ability. 

Honourable Mentions

Felipe Massa

Although Felipe Massa was not a member of the FDA, the idea for the FDA was based on him and therefore should be an honorary mention. Massa was a promising young driver who had proved himself and even raced alongside Michael Schumacher in 2006. Massa came close to glory in 2008, losing the driver’s title by a single point. 

Giuliano Alesi (2016-20)

The son of former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi, Giuliano Alesi was part of the programme from 2016-20, where he competed in GP3 and F2. In 2021, Alesi left the FDA and focused his career racing in Japan’s Super Formula and Super Formula Lights Series.

Gianluca Petecof (2017-20)

Gianluca Petecof joined the academy in December 2017 and competed in ADAC and Italian F4, as well as winning the Formula Regional European Championship in 2020. However, due to financial and sponsorship constraints, was unable to continue to F3 and left the FDA in 2021. He last raced in F2 where he had to withdraw halfway through the season due to limited finances.

Enzo Fittipaldi (2017-20)

The younger grandson of racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi, Enzo Fittipaldi joined the FDA in 2017. Fittipaldi had some good results, finishing third and first in ADAC and Italian F4 respectively in 2018, and finishing second in the Formula Regional European Championship in 2019. Fittipaldi left the FDA in 2021 and has since made a few appearances in Indy Pro 2000 and F2, replacing David Beckmann at Charouz.

Sebastian Montoya (2018)

Sebastian Montoya is the son of former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya joined the FDA in 2018 while competing in karting, but left after one year in the programme. He now races in ADAC and Italian F4 with Prema.

Current Drivers

Marcus Armstrong (2017-present)

Armstrong was invited to the FDA in 2017. He started competing in Italian and ADAC F4, achieving first and second place respectively in the series. In 2018, he moved to F3 European Championship and came in 5th place, while coming in third for the Toyota Racing series. In 2019, Armstrong improved, coming in second in F3 and Toyota Racing series, after which he moved to F2 in 2020 where he remains to this day. Armstrong has shown promise in his junior career so far, but unless he improves his standings in F2, it will be a little hard to justify an F1 seat for him for the time being.

Callum Ilott (2017-present)

Callum Ilott first joined the Red Bull Junior Team in 2015 for a year before FDA signed him in 2017. Ilott worked his way up, finishing fourth in the 2017 Formula 3 European Championship and third in the 2018 GP3 series. Ilott then moved to F2 for 2019-20 and also served as the test driver for Haas and Alfa Romeo. Ilott capped off an impressive 2020 by finishing second in F2, just behind fellow FDA member Mick Schumacher. But he was unfortunately robbed of an opportunity for a well-deserved F1 seat due to Haas opting to sign the undeserving Nikita Mazepin instead. Due to financial constraints, Ilott did not continue in F2, instead going on to GT racing and endurance challenges as well as serving as the Ferrari’s test driver and Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver. Currently, he is racing in Indycar and will be competing full time in the series for 2022.

Robert Shwartzman (2017-present)

Robert Shwartzman joined the FDA in 2017, alongside Marcus Armstrong and Callum Ilott. Shwartzman came in third for Formula Renault Eurocup in 2017 and F3 European Championship in 2018. He then had a breakout year, winning the Toyota Racing Series in 2018 as well as F3 in 2019. This led to a move to F2 for 2020 where he impressed, taking on a fourth place finish and currently sits third in the F2 standings this season. He also served as Ferrari’s test driver in 2020. While Shwartzman has had a promising junior career so far, it will probably need a herculean effort to bring out more extraordinary performances to justify why he should belong in F1. Shwartzman is not short of talent, but there are limited seats available in F1. 

Mick Schumacher (2019-present)

The son of the legendary Michael Schumacher, Mick Schumacher has been touted as a worthy heir to his father’s legacy, and rightfully so. Schumacher joined the FDA in 2019, after winning the F3 European Championship. Schumacher competed in F2 from 2019-20, winning the F2 title in his second year. This earned him a well-deserved drive with Haas in F1. Although the results don’t show his skill on the track due to the atrocious car developed by Haas this season. Mick Schumacher is definitely a rising talent and will look to earn the Ferrari seat in the next few years.

Arthur Leclerc (2020-present)

Always best known for being the little brother of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, Arthur Leclerc is a talented youngster making a name for himself in the junior categories. After solid performances in karting, Leclerc became a development driver for Venturi in Formula E from 2017-19. Concurrently, he started racing in French F4 in 2018 and ADAC F4 in 2019, finishing fifth and third in the respective series. This led the FDA to sign Leclerc for 2020 and onwards. Venturi promoted him to a test/reserve role in 2019-20 as well. Since joining the FDA, Leclerc competed in Formula Regional European Championship with Prema for 2020, finishing second in the series, just behind teammate and former academy member Gianluca Petecof. Prema retained his services for 2021 in F3 and Leclerc finished 10th in the standings with two wins and a podium. While still a bit early to be in contention for an F1 seat, the future definitely looks bright for Arthur Leclerc. Who knows, we may get to see the Leclerc brothers racing together in F1.

Dino Beganovic (2020-present)

Dino Beganovic is a Swedish-Bosnian driver who was signed to the FDA in 2020 after successful stints in karting. The 17 year old driver competed in Italian F4 with some appearances in ADAC F4. He had a successful campaign, finishing third in Italian F4. As of now, Beganovic currently competes in Formula Regional European Championship and is 14th in the standings with a podium so far. Beganovic is not in contention for an F1 seat for the time being and definitely needs some more time to develop and grow. If he can replicate his Italian F4 form, then he will definitely be one to look out for. 

James Wharton (2021-present)

Back in 2020, the FDA organised a Scouting World Finals to uncover the next young talent. The winner of the finals was James Wharton, a then 14 year old from Australia. After winning several Karting championships, Wharton came out on top of the Finals hosted at the Maranello, which earned him a place in the FDA. The young driver is currently still racing in karts, but also preparing for his single-seater debut as the FDA have plans to enter him in F4 next year. 

Maya Weug (2021-present)

Maya Weug is a trailblazer. She is the first and currently the only female driver who has made it into the famed FDA so far. Weug is 16 years old and holds Belgian, Spanish and Dutch nationalities. Previously, she competed in karts and won the WSK Final Cup in 2016, beating fellow academy member Dino Beganovic. In 2020, the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission organized a “Girls on Track – Rising Stars” programme, with the aim of promoting and supporting promising young female racing talents in motorsport. Weug was one of the twenty nominees for the programme and eventually went on to win the programme. This earned her a spot in the FDA. Currently, Weug is competing in Italian and ADAC F4 with Iron Lynx as part of their Iron Dames programme and FDA membership. She currently sits 33rd in the championship. Weug is certainly an example and opening the path to more women in motorsport.

Ferrari certainly have found themselves quite a few talented youngsters. While their projected long term lineup for the future has been rumoured to be Charles Leclerc and Mick Schumacher, Ferrari’s youngsters aren’t in a bad place to be so far. (Unlike Alpine’s Academy Drivers) Ferrari currently is still able to put the young drivers in their customer teams like Alfa Romeo or Haas for the time being. For 2022, the lineup for Haas and Ferrari have been confirmed and only one available seat is left at Alfa Romeo. This would definitely hinder the chances of the older academy members such as Armstrong, Ilott, and Shwartzman. In the future, Alfa Romeo have also made clear their intent of not having their driver choices being dictated by Ferrari, so the available seats for FDA members will become lower. Hopefully these talented young drivers will have the opportunity to showcase their talents on the big stage.

F1 Driver Development Programmes: Alpine Academy

Written by: Daniel Yi, Edited by: Morgan Holiday

Before Alpine, there was Renault, and before that there was Lotus, Lotus Renault and Renault again. Although technically, Lotus is a separate and different team from Renault, the history of the driver programs are shared due to the team entry remaining the same.

Driver Programme History

When Benetton was bought over and rebranded into Renault in 2002, they set up a driver development programme to scout for the next talent in racing. From 2002-09, it was named as Renault Driver Development. In 2010, Renault sold a majority stake in the team to Genii Capital and the programme was rebranded as the RF1 Driver Programme. Following the acquisition of Renault’s remaining stake in the team in 2011, the team was rebranded as Lotus Renault GP and the driver development programme was rebranded once again to LRGP (Lotus Renault GP) Academy. This arrangement lasted one single year before another rebranding from Lotus-Renault GP to Lotus F1 and the programme name was changed to Lotus F1 Team iRace Professional Programme. From 2013-15, the driver programme was rebranded as Lotus GP Academy. Renault Sport then reacquired the team from Lotus F1, leading to another rebranding back to Renault in 2016. The programme underwent yet another name change to Renault Sport Academy from 2016-20. After the most recent rebranding from Renault to Alpine, the Renault Sport Academy became the Alpine Academy.

Driver Programme Names

2002-2009: Renault Driver Development

2010: RF1 Driver Programme

2011: LRGP (Lotus Renault GP) Academy

2012: Lotus F1 Team iRace Professional Programme

2013-1015: Lotus F1 Junior Team

2016-2020: Renault Sport Academy

2021-present: Alpine Academy

Notable members

This programme has a combined total of 51 previous and current drivers (36 Renault, 10 Lotus, 5 current). Here are some notable and talented ones who have made the jump to F1.

Renault Driver Development (02-09) / RF1 Driver Programme (2010) / LRGP Academy (2011)

Robert Kubica (2002)

F1: BMW Sauber (2007-09), Renault (2010), Williams reserve (2018), Williams (2019), Alfa Romeo reserve (2020-present)

One of the biggest “what ifs” in F1, Robert Kubica could have been a world champion if not for that horrible accident. Don’t let the poor 2019 Williams fool you, Kubica is definitely no pushover and demonstrated talent from a young age. Renault signed him in 2002 and he went on to make his F1 debut in 2006 with BMW Sauber. Immediately he showed his skill and won the 2008 Canadian GP as well. He moved to Renault in 2010 and made a case for himself as one of the best drivers in F1. It was revealed that Ferrari had signed him for 2012 to partner Fernando Alonso, however, the horrific accident while rallying in 2011 dashed his promising career. Kubica spent 2 years rehabilitating and made a return to rallying in 2013. Kubica slowly fought his way back to F1 with private tests for Renault and Williams in 2017. Against all odds, he made his inspirational return to F1 with Williams as a reserve in 2018 and raced for them in 2019. He currently serves as the reserve driver for Alfa Romeo.

Tiago Monteiro (2002)

F1: Minardi test/reserve (2004), Jordan/Midland/Spyker (2005-06)

Tiago Monteiro holds the title of being the most successful Portuguese F1 driver. He was signed by Renault to the programme in 2002 and became a test driver for Minardi in 2004. In 2005, Jordan announced Monteiro as one of their drivers. He achieved his one and only podium in bizarre circumstances with a third place finish at the controversial 2005 US Grand Prix which featured only 6 running cars. In 2006, Monteiro remained with Jordan as it was renamed to Midland and rebranded into Spyker for the final few races. His F1 career was spent languishing with the backmarkers due to uncompetitive cars. Without a drive for 2007, he moved to the World Touring Car Championship where he still races today.

Heikki Kovalainen (2002-05)

F1: Renault test/reserve (2004-06), Renault (2007), McLaren (2008-09), Lotus Racing/Team Lotus/Caterham (2010-12), Caterham test/reserve (2013), Lotus F1 (2013)

The first driver from Renault Driver Development to graduate to Renault in F1, Heikki Kovalainen started as the test driver for Renault from 2004-06 and replaced the outbound Fernando Alonso at Renault for 2007. He picked up a podium in his rookie season before moving to McLaren to replace Alonso again for the 2008 season. He would remain at McLaren until 2009 before being replaced by Jenson Button for 2010, amassing a win and 2 more podiums. Kovalainen then joined Lotus Racing (Not related to Lotus F1) and remained at the team which underwent 2 name changes to Caterham until 2012. Kovalainen was subsequently dropped for 2013, but remained as Caterham’s test driver and deputising for the injured Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus F1 for the final 2 races in 2013. Rumours had linked him to a testing role at Mercedes for 2014 but instead he moved to Japan’s Super GT in 2015 and remains there till today.

Giedo van der Garde (2004)

F1: Spyker/Force India test/reserve (2007-08), Caterham test/reserve (2012), Caterham (2013), Sauber test/reserve (2014)

Before his days in the McLaren Young Driver Programme, Giedo van der Garde joined Renault Driver Development in 2004. He went on to become a test driver for Spyker/Force India during 2007-08. He then became a test/reserve driver for Renault-powered Caterham in 2012 and raced for them in 2013. Sauber subsequently picked him up as a test/reserve driver in 2014 as well as allegedly having a race seat for 2015. However, Sauber signed 6 drivers for 2 race seats. van der Garde settled out of court with Sauber and never raced in F1 again. Now, he races in WEC in LMP2 cars.

Pastor Maldonado (2004-05)

F1: HRT test/reserve (2010), Williams (2011-13), Lotus F1 (2014-15), Pirelli tyre test (2016-17)

The legend of Maldonado first began his Renault association when they signed him to the programme for 2004-2005. He was given an opportunity to be HRT’s test driver in 2010. After winning GP2 in 2010, Williams signed him from 2011-13. Despite the unfortunate reputation of reckless and crash-prone driving, Maldonado still showed skill and talent, having achieved Williams’ last race win in 2012 with a brilliant drive. Lotus F1 signed Maldonado to race for them in 2014-15. When Lotus F1 was reacquired by Renault in 2016, Maldonado found himself without a drive and turned to Pirelli testing duties in 2016-17. After F1, he’s gone on to race LMP2 cars and last raced in 2019 with DragonSpeed Racing in 24H of Le Mans and IMSA SportCar Championship.

Jérôme d’Ambrosio (2004, 2010)

F1: Virgin Racing test/reserve (2010), Virgin Racing (2011), Lotus F1 reserve (2012-13)

Jérôme d’Ambrosio earned a place in the programme for 2004 after winning Formula Renault 1.6 Belgium in 2003. He was not retained the following year but made a return to the programme in 2010. d’Ambrosio made his F1 debut as a test/reserve for Virgin in 2010 and raced full-time for them in 2011. He then became the reserve driver for Lotus F1 from 2012-13 and made a one-off appearance for them in 2012 due to Romain Grosjean’s race ban. d’Ambrosio then moved to Formula E until 2020 and retired, now serving as the deputy Team Principal for Venturi Racing in Formula E.

Lucas di Grassi (2005-07)

F1: Renault test/reserve (2006-09), Virgin Racing (2010), Pirelli tyre test (2011-13)

Lucas di Grassi joined Renault Driver development in 2005 and became Renault’s test/reserve driver from 2006-09. After being passed over for a Renault seat in mid-2009 in favour of Romain Grosjean, di Grassi joined Virgin Racing in 2010. Virgin did not retain him for the subsequent season and di Grassi spent 2011-13 as a tyre tester for Pirelli. After F1 he has mostly raced in WEC and Formula E where he remains to this day. He won the Formula E championship in the 2016-17 season.

Romain Grosjean (2006-09)

F1: Renault test/reserve (2008-09), Renault (2009), Pirelli tyre test (2010), Lotus Renault test/reserve (2011), Lotus F1 (2012-15), Haas (2016-20)

The Phoenix started with Renault’s programme in 2006. In 2008, he became the test/reserve driver for Renault, a role which he retained until mid-2009 where he was promoted to a race seat to replace Nelson Piquet Jr. Grosjean was not retained for 2010 and he took up tyre testing duties for Pirelli in 2010. He returned as a test/reserve for the newly rebranded Lotus Renault GP in 2011 and raced for them from 2012-15. In 2016, Grosjean moved to Haas. During the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, he miraculously survived a massive crash and blaze and went on to make a full recovery. During his time in F1, like Maldonado, he unfortunately developed a reputation for causing collisions and bizarre crashes, resulting in a race ban for 2012. Nonetheless, he showed his talent and achieved 10 podiums. Grosjean left F1 at the end of 2020 after not being retained by Haas, and is now racing in IndyCar.

Dani Clos (2007)

F1: HRT test/reserve (2012)

Not much is known about Dani Clos, but he joined Renault Driver Development in 2007 after winning Formula Renault 2.0 Italia in 2006 and was not retained the following year. He remained in feeder series until 2012 where he became the test driver for HRT, appearing in FP1 sessions for a few race weekends. After 2012, he continued in GP2 but with no significant results. He last raced in the 2019 European Le Mans Series and seems to have transitioned into a Youtuber, creating content around sportscars and test driving them.

Charles Pic (2009)

F1: Marussia (2012), Caterham (2013), Lotus F1 test/reserve (2014)

Charles Pic joined Renault Driver Development in 2009 and achieved third place in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Pic was signed by Marussia to race for them in 2012. In 2013, Caterham signed Pic on an initial multi-year deal which did not materialise. Caterham released him at the end of 2013 and took up reserve driver duties with Lotus F1 for 2014. After F1, Pic made a few appearances in Formula E and eventually retired in 2015.

Davide Valsecchi

F1: Team Lotus test/reserve (2011), Lotus F1 test/reserve (2013)

Davide Valsecchi signed with Renault Driver Development in 2009 alongside Charles Pic and capped it off by winning the GP2 Asia Series that year. He became the test/reserve driver for Team Lotus in 2011. After winning GP2 in 2012, Lotus F1 signed him as their test/reserve driver for 2013. Unfortunately he was passed over in favour of Heikki Kovalainen to replace the injured Kimi Raikkonen for the final 2 races in 2013. This led to a disappointed Valsecchi criticising the team publicly and may have led to his replacement by Charles Pic as reserve driver for 2014. Valsecchi made a few appearances in GT racing in the past few years and has mostly been involved in commentary since 2016.

Jan Charouz

F1: Renault test/reserve (2010), HRT and Lotus Renault test/reserve (2011)

Another driver that has seemed to have stopped racing as of now. Jan Charouz started his racing career in 2003 and spent several years with his family-owned team Charouz Racing System, racing in various series including Le Mans. Charouz became a member of the RF1 Driver Programme in 2010 and also became the test/reserve driver for Renault. This membership and role continued to 2011 as the newly-rebranded Lotus Renault GP and he also took up a test/reserve role with HRT in 2011 concurrently. After F1, he’s done some endurance racing but last raced competitively in 2014.

Fairuz Fauzy (2011)

F1: Spyker test/reserve (2007), Lotus Racing test/reserve (2010), Lotus Renault test/reserve (2011)

Malaysian racer Fairuz joined Spyker as a test/reserve driver in 2007 but did not see any track time during free practice sessions. Lotus Racing, who had some Malaysian affiliation, signed him as their test/reserve driver for 2010 on a multi-year deal, but parted ways after one year. In 2011, Fairuz joined the LRGP Academy and became Lotus Renault test/reserve driver. Since then, he has largely remained in Asia and raced in various GT series.

Lotus F1 Team iRace Professional Programme (2012) / Lotus F1 Junior Team (2013-15)

Marco Sørensen (2009, 2013-15)

F1: Lotus F1 test/reserve (2014)

Sørensen first joined the programme in 2009 under Renault but was let go just after one year. Lotus recalled him back to their programme in 2013 and he became their test/reserve in 2014. Since then, he has largely competed in the LMGTe categories for WEC and Le Mans to this day.

Kevin Korjus (2012)

F1: Lotus F1 reserve (2012)

Korjus was part of the programme in 2012. He made only one appearance as a reserve driver which was during the 2012 Italian Grand Prix where he filled in for reserve driver Jérôme d’Ambrosio who was filling in for the banned Roman Grosjean. After that, he mainly raced sportscars and last raced in 2016.

Alexander Albon (2013-2015)

F1: Toro Rosso (2019), Red Bull (2019-2020), Red Bull test/reserve (2021-present)

Albon has been mentioned as part of 3 driver programmes so far. During his karting days, McLaren and Red Bull signed him. As he moved into single seaters, Lotus decided to take a flyer on this British-Thai driver. In these 3 years, Albon’s best result was a second place finish in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship. In 2019, Albon became an F1 driver with Toro Rosso and Red Bull, picking up 2 podiums along the way. Currently, he races in DTM and serves as the test and reserve driver for Red Bull. 

Matthieu Vaxivière (2015)

F1: Lotus F1 test/reserve (2015)

Matthieu Vaxivière only had a year in the Lotus F1 Junior Team, but managed to serve as their test/reserve driver during this time. He did not make any appearances during a Grand Prix weekend. After his stint, he moved to WEC where he currently remains.

Renault Sport Academy

Louis Delétraz (2016)

F1: Haas test/reserve (2018-20)

Following the return of Renault, the Lotus F1 Junior drivers were released and Louis Delétraz was signed to the once again rebranded team. Delétraz made his F1 debut as a test driver for Haas in 2018 and remained in the role until 2020. Now he currently races in European Le Mans and WEC.

Jack Aitken (2016-19)

F1: Renault test/reserve (2018-19), Williams test/reserve (2020-present), Williams (2020)

Jack Aitken was part of the first batch of drivers in the newly rebranded Renault Sport Academy in 2016. He carried out test/reserve duties for Renault in 2018-19. Subsequently, Aitken moved to Williams Driver Academy and became their test/reserve driver, even making a one-off appearance in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, filling in for George Rusell who had gone to fill in for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes. 

Honourable Mention

Anthoine Hubert (2019)

The late Anthoine Hubert was a huge talent and definitely a strong candidate for an F1 seat. He will be sorely missed. RIP

Current drivers

Christian Lundgaard (Age: 20) (2017-present)

Lundgaard joined Renault Sport Academy in 2017 and started his racecar career in style, winning SMP and Spanish F4. This was followed by a 2nd place finish in the Formula Renault Eurocup Championship in 2018. After finishing 6th in F3 in 2019, he made the move to F2 in 2020 where he still races now, 12th in the championship. Lundgaard also made his IndyCar debut recently, finishing 12th. 

Victor Martins (Age: 20) (2018-19, 2021-present)

Victor Martins had a dominant karting career. He moved to single-seaters in 2016 and finished 2nd in the 2017 French F4. This earned him an opportunity with Renault Sport Academy. Martins then moved to Formula Renault Eurocup and came in 5th and 2nd in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Despite the results, Renault elected not to promote him to F3 and dropped him instead. However, he made a comeback, winning the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup and rejoining Alpine. Currently he competes in F3 where he is 7th place as of now.

Caio Collet (Age: 19) (2019-present)

Collet won French F4 in 2018, which led to Renault Sport Academy bringing him onboard. After moving to Formula Renault Eurocup, he achieved 5th place in 2019 and 2nd place in 2020. So far, his performances have shown promise. Currently, he lies 10th in the F3 Championship.

Guanyu Zhou (Age: 22) (2019-present)

Compared to his peers, Zhou has had a relatively slower progression in his career. After a runner-up finish in Italian F4 in 2015, he moved to F3 for 3 years. Although he had somewhat consistent improvement, but no outstanding seasons so to speak in the 3 years. Nonetheless, Renault signed him and he moved to F2 in 2019. Zhou showed promise in F2, winning Asian F3 and is now in 2nd place in the championship, battling Oscar Piastri for the title. Zhou has tested the Alpine A521 during FP1 of the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix and is also the reserve driver for them.

Oscar Piastri (Age: 20) (2020-present)

Oscar Piastri made his single-seater debut in 2016. Since 2019, he has been massively successful in the junior categories, winning Formula Renault Eurocup and earning a place in the Renault Sport Academy in 2020. Even more impressive, he won the F3 title in 2020 as a rookie and is currently leading the F2 Championship, competing with fellow Alpine Junior Guanyu Zhou for the title.

So far, Alpine is in a good position for the future with these excellent drivers. However, given that Ocon is likely to stay with Alpine for the long term and Alonso has an option for 2022, these young guys may not get to see the F1 cockpit for 2022. The more senior drivers like Lundgaard, Zhou and Piastri need to win the F2 title to justify why they should get the seat. While this would make for an exciting F2 series, it would also be a shame if any of these guys don’t get a chance for F1. 

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Interview with Youtuber DylanJamesGP

Written and conducted by: Tom Evans, Edited by: Daniel Yi

Dylan James is a British YouTuber and content creator known for his highly entertaining motorsport opinion videos that, to this point, have amassed him an impressive 16.8 thousand subscribers! We at DIVEBOMB were lucky enough to interview him a short while ago:

Tom: When did you start to take an interest in motorsports?

Dylan: I’ve been watching motorsports since before I could think. My parents were a fan of the up and coming Lewis Hamilton in 2007 so naturally, I’d watch with them. I’d say one of my first memories was Lewis binning it in the gravel trap in China 2007 and more notably, my dad’s reaction.

Tom: Who were your biggest idols growing up? And who is your biggest idol now?

Dylan: Biggest idols growing up had to have been Lewis Hamilton and Steven Gerrard, however nowadays I’d have to say Theo Pourchaire – which may seem odd due to lack of experience within motorsports in general, however, I really admire how much he has achieved in such a short amount of time.

Tom: What are the biggest joys and challenges of being an F1 YouTuber?

Dylan: The joys of being an F1 YouTuber definitely includes audience engagement – it’s the best feeling in the world when you can tell that someone really enjoyed a video, and you begin to actually recognise the names of subscribers who have been with you through thick and thin. Ad revenue is great and all, but seeing the impact you make on a significant number of people is definitely the best part.

Biggest challenges are certainly the undesirables on the platform – the sort of internet trolls who send racist comments, death threats and the likes. However when you do create content for many, they’re bound to find you so I don’t get too caught up on negativity anymore!

Tom: Not too long ago you hit 10000 subscribers. What was your reaction to achieving what so little others have?

Dylan: Hitting 10,000 was crazy. It’s the kind of number that you always want to reach, but never think is possible when you’re pottering around with 30 odd views. Although, through a few good, popular videos and with advice and help from a fellow YouTuber -John Warren, I began making my way towards that number. Hitting it was an awesome feeling, and really felt like I was getting somewhere with a career! 

Tom: Did you ever think you would be as successful as you are?

Dylan: I always wanted to be as successful as I am now, however wanting and achieving are very different things – I had to work very hard on different projects before I even started this channel in order to acquire the knowledge and skills required to create good content. And with all of this work, I only receive 30-100 views per video.

Tom: If you could pick a team principal, and 2 drivers for your own team, who would you choose and why?

Dylan: My F1 dream team would genuinely consist of Carlos Sainz alongside Lando Norris. McLaren’s 2020 lineup worked well and I personally believe that Sainz is the most underrated driver on the grid, with Lando having the most potential of the young guns. For team principal, I’d have to pick Toto Wolff.

Tom: What are your hopes for the future of your channel?

Dylan: I don’t necessarily have any strict future ambitions for my channel. I take it day by day, video by video, subscriber by subscriber and let it all develop naturally. Obviously there are milestones, I wouldn’t complain if I eventually reached 50k for instance! However I am in no rush!

Tom: And finally, could we get a sneak peek on any new videos for the near future?

Dylan: I have a few videos planned in the near future, including a few Indycar videos featuring drivers such as Pato O’Ward. I am also working on a few fun videos featuring other YouTubers, but you’ll have to wait and see!

We at Divebomb wish DylanJamesGP the very best for his channel and career!

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F1 Driver Development Programmes: McLaren Young Driver Programme

Written by: Daniel Yi Edited by: Harshi Vashee

Today we talk about McLaren, one of the most storied teams with a long and rich history. Many great F1 drivers in history have driven for this iconic team. But today, instead of looking at the team, let us look at its driver development programme, its history and the talents it has produced in the past years.

For the past 30 years, until 2019, McLaren has funded and run the McLaren Autosport British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Young Driver Award. This scheme has helped develop the careers of young drivers since 1989.

From the young driver award, an idea was formed to support up and coming racing talents and thus, the McLaren Young Driver Program was born. In 1998, the McLaren Young Driver Programme started supporting and developing promising young drivers. The programme has gone on to churn out a total of 17 drivers, of which 10 have made it into F1 (including test/reserve) and 4 of these drivers have raced for McLaren.

Previous drivers

Although McLaren has much fewer protégés compared to Red Bull (85), the McLaren young drivers are no pushovers, with comparable talent coming from the programme. Here are some of the notable drivers who have been a part of this historic team’s driver programme.

Lewis Hamilton (1998-2006)

F1: McLaren (2007-12), Mercedes (2013-present)

It would be a crime if we didn’t begin this list with one of the greatest drivers ever and probably the first person that pops into mind when McLaren young driver is mentioned. Sir Lewis Hamilton undoubtedly has been a prodigy ever since he’s stepped into a kart. His great performances eventually attracted the attention of Ron Dennis after he approached Dennis for an autograph at the Autosport Awards. A few years later, Dennis called Hamilton for the opportunity to join the driver development programme and the rest is history. In his McLaren days, he showed immediate results as a rookie and even won a title as a second-year driver. Now with Mercedes, he has broken multiple longstanding records and equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven F1 titles and is battling his way to record an eighth title. The McLaren Young Driver Programme can be considered a success even if Hamilton were to be it’s only graduate. It uncovered and developed one of the greatest F1 drivers in history.

Giedo van der Garde (2006-10)

F1: Spyker/Force India test/reserve (2007-08), Caterham test/reserve (2012), Caterham (2013), Sauber test/reserve (2014)

Currently driving for Racing Team Nederland in WEC LMP2 class

Giedo van der Garde was signed to the McLaren Young Driver Programme in 2006 and became a test driver for Spyker/Force India during 2007-08. Despite winning the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2008, McLaren were contenders and ran experienced drivers like Hamilton, Kovalainen and Button. There was no space in the team for van der Garde and he was eventually let go in 2010. He still went on to be a test/reserve driver for Caterham in 2012 and raced for them in 2013. He then joined Sauber as a test/reserve driver in 2014 and was apparently supposed to race for them in 2015 before Sauber messed up by somehow signing 6 drivers for 2 race seats. van der Garde reached a settlement with Sauber and never raced in F1 again. These days, he races in WEC in LMP2 cars.

Alexander Albon (2010)

F1: Toro Rosso (2019), Red Bull (2019-2020), Red Bull test/reserve (2021-present)

Currently racing in DTM

Surprisingly, before Red Bull, Alex Albon was actually part of Mclaren’s Young Driver Programme. McLaren signed Albon in 2010 while in his karting days. For reasons unbeknownst, McLaren did not continue with Albon and Red Bull picked him up for the junior team in 2012. Albon has gone on to be an F1 driver with Toro Rosso and Red Bull, achieving 2 podiums along the way. However, his performance in 2020 was insufficient to earn him a race seat with Red Bull in 2021. He now races in DTM and serves as the test and reserve driver for Red Bull. Albon is looking to get back into F1 next season and rumours have linked him to IndyCar as well.

Oliver Turvey (2010-11)

F1: McLaren test/reserve (2009-present)

Currently racing in Formula E with NIO 333

Oliver Turvey is a rather strange example. Based on records, he is the longest tenured test driver with McLaren but has never seen a part in a race weekend. Turvey won 2 national karting titles and came in 2nd in British F3 in 2008. Turvey then became the test driver for McLaren and was then signed to the Young Driver Programme in 2010. He has remained a test driver for McLaren to this day. Despite this, he has raced in other series and even won 24H of Le Mans for the LMP2 category in 2014. Since 2014, he has been racing in Formula E. Turvey also has a Master’s degree in engineering and is a huge boost when it comes to car development and testing.

Kevin Magnussen (2010-13)

F1: McLaren (2014), McLaren test/reserve (2015), Renault (2016), Haas (2017-20)

Currently racing in IMSA SportsCar with Chip Ganassi Racing

Similar to Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen actually gave a call to Ron Dennis after winning the Danish Formula Ford Championship as his racing funds were running low. McLaren decided to sign him to the programme and it paid off with good results in feeder series, earning him a drive with McLaren in F1. Magnussen definitely caused a stir when he made the podium on his F1 debut and it looked like McLaren had developed a potential winning driver. However, in a surprising turn of events, McLaren relegated him to a test/reserve role the next season to make way for Fernando Alonso. The subsequent few seasons, he was stuck in uncompetitive machinery with mediocre results. Despite leaving F1 in 2020, he still demonstrates his quality in the IMSA SportsCar Championship where he races currently with a win and 2 podiums as of now. 

Nyck de Vries (2010-19)

F1: Mercedes test/reserve (2021-present)

Currently racing in Formula E with Mercedes-EQ

The longest tenured driver in the programme, Nyck de Vries has been a McLaren Young Driver since his karting days and has had a very successful junior career. He won the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and Alps championships in 2014 and despite winning F2 in 2019, did not manage to get a race seat for F1 in 2020. Nonetheless, de Vries has made a solid and convincing statement for himself to get an F1 seat. He has been racing in Formula E with Mercedes EQ and served as their test driver for their F1 team. This past weekend, he clinched yet another title by winning the 2021 Formula E Championship. Definitely someone deserving of an F1 seat. He has been linked to a race seat at Williams for next season as George Russell is rumored to move to Mercedes.

Stoffel Vandoorne (2013-16)

F1: McLaren test/reserve (2014), McLaren (2016-2018), Mercedes reserve (2019-present)

Currently racing in Formula E with Mercedes-EQ 

During his junior career, former F1 driver, Alex Wurz introduced Stoffel Vandoorne to Matt Bishop who was the Head of Public Relations and Communications for McLaren then. Vandoorne sent Bishop his impressive results in the 2011 Formula Renault Eurocup which led to McLaren taking an interest in him. Vandoorne went on to win the next season and was then signed to the programme in 2013. He continued his excellent run of results in the feeder series, dominating and winning GP2 before graduating to F1 in 2017. Unfortunately for him, McLaren were using GP2 Honda engines and were terribly uncompetitive. Furthermore, he was paired up with a beast of a driver in Fernando Alonso. In Vandoorne’s two seasons with McLaren, Alonso completely trounced him in qualifying and races, dealing a huge blow to his confidence and performance. After F1, he became the Mercedes reserve driver and their Formula E driver. Don’t let his results against Alonso mislead you. Vandoorne is still a quick driver and seems to be rediscovering his GP2 form after finishing second in Formula E last year.

Lando Norris (2017-18)

F1: McLaren test/reserve (2018), McLaren (2019-present)

McLaren’s latest driver to have come through the ranks of the programme. Norris basically stormed through the feeder series, finishing third in the championship for his racecar debut and winning 4 titles from 2014-16 which attracted McLaren’s attention. Norris was signed to the programme and eventually made his way to Formula 1 in 2019 after performing well in F3 and F2. Unlike Hamilton and Magnussen, Norris comes from a wealthy background and this led some to believe that he bought his way into the programme. But unlike other pay drivers, Norris is a talent who made it into the programme and F1 based on his merit. His on-track achievements reflect that. Currently, Norris is in his third year with McLaren and has amassed 4 podiums so far. This season, prior to his retirement in the Hungarian Grand Prix, he set a record for the most consecutive points finishes in a McLaren with a 15-race scoring streak dating back to Imola last season.

Sérgio Sette Câmara (2019)

F1: Toro Rosso test/reserve (2016), McLaren test/reserve (2019), Red Bull/AlphaTauri test/reserve (2020)

Currently racing in Formula E with Dragon/Penske Autosport

Sérgio Sette Câmara was actually a Red Bull Junior in 2016 before coming to the McLaren Young Driver Programme. Sette Câmara showed promise in the 2015 F3 season before being signed by Red Bull. After Red Bull dropped him after 1 year, he went on to F2 where he showed some decent results. McLaren signed him to the programme and made him a test driver in 2019. In 2020, he was dropped and returned to the Red Bull Junior Team, serving as a test driver for Red Bull/AlphaTauri.

Some honourable mentions include current Formula E drivers Oliver Rowland, Tom Blomqvist, Super Formula driver Nobuharu Matsushita, and McLaren factory driver Ben Barnicoat (story for another day).

Current drivers

From late 2019 to 2021, the programme did not sign any drivers. McLaren CEO, Zak Brown, explained McLaren’s targeted approach (as opposed to Red Bull’s cast a wide net approach) and that due the stable lineup of Norris and Ricciardo would mean limited to no opportunities for any junior drivers to get into F1. However, recently, McLaren signed a young American driver by the name of Ugo Ugochukwu.

Ugochukwu is 13 years old and currently competes in karting series across Europe and America. Not much is known about the deal but hopefully he can do well and who knows, become the next generation’s Lewis Hamilton.

The McLaren Young Driver Programme has helped scout and uncover many talents. With racing being such an expensive sport, not many can afford it. Lewis Hamilton’s father had to work 4 jobs to support him and Kevin Magnussen almost couldn’t continue his feeder series. Without the programme, we may have been unable to see some of these drivers make it to the big stage. The programme has provided them support in their junior racing careers, allowing them to showcase their talent and make their mark in racing.

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F1 Driver Development Programmes: Red Bull suffering from success? [Opinion]

Written by: Daniel Yi, Edited by: Andrea Teo

Disclaimer: The views and opinions presented in this article are purely the author’s and do not represent the opinions and beliefs of Divebomb or its affiliates.

Gentlemen, a short view back to the past. Twenty years ago, Helmut Marko told us, “Take a promising young driver, place him into the Red Bull Junior Team, and he is able to drive in Formula 1.” Twenty years later, everyone else is saying, “Take a promising young driver, place him into the Red Bull Junior Team, and his F1 dream will be ruined.” Question for the readers: How successful is the Red Bull Junior Team? Does it ruin the promising F1 careers of racing hopefuls? What are your wishes for the future concerning the drivers in the Red Bull programme? Should they stay on or leave? Will the dropped drivers have another chance? Or are they really not that good after all?

-Fake Quotes, 2021

Okay, so the above section was a fabricated joke. But it still raises a few valid questions about the Red Bull Junior Team. What happened to the promising former members of the Red Bull Junior Team? Is the Red Bull Junior Team really successful in generating talented drivers for F1? Why did Red Bull, a team that has always prided itself on using “home-grown academy talent” from their junior team, suddenly sign an “outsider” in Sergio Perez this season? 

Let us explore these three questions about the Red Bull Junior team today. Before we get into that however, a brief introduction and history of the Red Bull Junior Team.

There were actually two Red Bull Junior Teams. Back in 1989, Dr. Helmut Marko set up and ran a racing team, RSM Marko, which focused on competing in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 (now FIA Formula 2). RSM Marko then came under Red Bull sponsorship and ran under the name Red Bull Junior Team from 1999 until its end in 2003. 

The junior team that we know now first had its beginnings in 2001, when Red Bull formed the team as its European driver programme. Talented racers receive support and funding from Red Bull as they progress through lower ranks of motorsport.

Where are the former members of the Red Bull Junior Team now? 

With a whopping 85 total number of (both previous and current) members of the Red Bull Junior Team, it is impossible to focus on every single driver, therefore we will only be focusing on former members who have made it to F1 (either as driver, test or reserve).

*add numbers to the table

DriverYears as Red Bull Jr (chronological?)Where are they now?
Enrique Bernoldi1999-2000 (

Driver Years as Red Bull Junior

Enrique Bernoldi: 1999-2000 as Red Bull Junior Team (RSM Marko)

  • Retired in 2016 after racing in GT, Stock Car Brasil

Robert Doornbos: 2004

  • Raced in Superleague Formula, IndyCar and A1GP
  • Last raced in 2020 Dutch Winter Endurance Series
  • Co-founded an adult toy production company
  • Currently with Ziggo Sport as an analyst

Patrick Friesacher: 2001-03

  • Raced in A1GP and American Le Mans
  • Currently an instructor at the Red Bull Ring

Narain Karthikeyan: 2004

  • Raced in Super Formula with appearances in Auto GP and Super GT
  • Last raced in 2021 Asian Le Mans Series

Christian Klien: 2001-03

  • Raced in GT and Endurance racing
  • Currently racing in 2021 International GT Open Pro-Am Cup

Vitantonio Liuzzi: 2002-04

  • Raced in GT, WEC, Super Formula, Formula E and Esports
  • Last raced in 2020 The Race Legends Trophy

Sebastian Vettel: 2002-07

  • Moved to Scuderia Ferrari from 2015 onwards
  • Currently with Aston Martin F1

Scott Speed: 2003-05

  • Returned to US after Toro Rosso stint and raced in NASCAR, IndyCar and Rallycross
  • Made appearances in Formula E

Neel Jani: 2005-07

  • Raced in A1GP and sportscars (GT and WEC)
  • Last raced in Formula E in 2019-2020 season

Michael Ammermüller: 2004-07

  • Raced in A1GP, GT, and Porsche racing series
  • Won Porsche Supercup from 2017-2019
  • Last raced in ADAC GT Masters (1st place)

Brendon Hartley: 2006-10

  • Raced in WEC, winning in 2015, 2017
  • Le Mans 24H winner: 2017, 2020
  • Currently racing in WEC with Toyota

Sébastien Buemi: 2005-08

  • Racing in Formula E (2014-present), WEC (2012-present)
  • 2015-16 Formula E Champion
  • 24H of Le Mans winner: 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020

Jaime Alguersuari: 2006-09

  • Last raced in Formula E in 2014-15
  • Retired to become a DJ
  • Debut album topped iTunes album five days after release

Daniel Ricciardo: 2008-11

  • Moved to Renault F1 in 2019
  • Currently racing with McLaren F1

Jean-Éric Vergne: 2008-11

  • Racing in Formula E (2014-present)
  • 2-time Formula E Champion (2018, 2019)

Daniil Kvyat: 2010-13

  • AlphaTauri contract not renewed for 2021
  • Current Alpine reserve driver

Carlos Sainz Jr.: 2010-14

  • Moved to Renault F1 in 2017
  • Currently racing with Scuderia Ferrari

Max Verstappen: 2014

  • Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri (2015-16)
  • Red Bull (2016-present)

Pierre Gasly: 2014-17

  • Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri (2017-18, 2019-present)
  • Red Bull (2019)

Alexander Albon: 2012

  • Red Bull contract not renewed for 2021
  • Current Red Bull test/reserve driver
  • Racing in DTM

Yuki Tsunoda: 2019-20

  • AlphaTauri (2021-present)

Dan Ticktum: 2017-19

  • Recently dropped as Williams Academy and development driver

Callum Ilott: 2015

  • Current Ferrari/Alfa Romeo test/reserve driver

Is the Red Bull Junior Team really successful in generating talented drivers to F1?

Many fans consider the Red Bull Junior Team to be a successful programme. But by just looking at the list above, only twenty-two out of 85 Red Bull Juniors have made their way to Formula 1. Statistically speaking, it means for every 4 Red Bull Juniors, only about one will make it to Formula 1, which isn’t exactly a strong association with success. So why is the Red Bull Junior Team still widely considered to be successful?

In terms of achievements, it has been successful. In their early years of the programme, you would get laughed at if you thought the programme was a success. Before 2007, none of the drivers had any significant results in F1, until the arrival of Sebastian Vettel in the 2007 season, which saw a change in the perception of the programme. Sebastian Vettel went on to dominate from the later half of 2009 until 2013, winning 4 world championships. Then came Daniel Ricciardo, who won multiple races and contended for the championship for a couple of seasons, and the generational talent Max Verstappen who won his debut race with Red Bull and has the chance to end Mercedes’ dominance and dethrone Lewis Hamilton in 2021. These 3 drivers are considered to be Red Bull’s most successful protégés and between them, they have a combined 75 wins, 68 pole positions, 67 fastest laps, 203 podiums and 5606 points.

In terms of driver quality they have been very good as well. In the mid-2000s, Red Bull had not become the contendenting obsolete word what to replace? force it is today, and Toro Rosso was a perennial backmarker instead of contending in the midfield, which limited the achievements and impacts early Junior Team graduates could make. Nonetheless, out of these 22 drivers, almost half of these graduates have had some form of achievement in F1. 3 (Albon, Sainz, Kvyat) have been on the podium multiple times, 3 (Gasly, Ricciardo, Verstappen) have won races and multiple podiums, while Vettel was a 4-time World Champion. 

Some of the drivers also have been successful in other racing series outside of F1. Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi have won multiple Le Mans and WEC championships, Michael Ammermüller has won multiple Porsche Supercups, Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne have been massively successful in Formula E. Currently, 6 out of the 20 drivers on the 2021 F1 grid were once part of the Red Bull Junior Team (Sainz, Ricciardo, Vettel, Verstappen, Gasly, Tsunoda). 

Given the success and quality of the junior team, this brings us to the next question.

Why did Red Bull, a team that has always prided itself on using “home-grown academy talent” from their successful junior team, suddenly sign an “outsider” in Sergio Perez this season? 

Because Red Bull had no good option for a second driver to help Verstapppen in the title fight.

In the entire team history of Red Bull, with the exception of David Coulthard (2005-08) and Mark Webber (2007-13) signed in the early years to provide a veteran presence, the drivers have all been Junior Team members. Red Bull, in a somewhat surprising move, decided to sign Sergio Perez for the 2021 season, and he became the first non-Red Bull affiliated driver in 7 seasons to race for them since Mark Webber.

This is the part where Red Bull and the junior team have failed, resulting in the signing of Perez. Since the promotion of Verstappen to Red Bull in 2016, some fans believed that Red Bull were favouring Verstappen over the more senior Ricciardo, believing that to be the reason behind the departure of Ricciardo after 2018. Since then, Red Bull has been unable to develop a suitable candidate to be the second driver alongside Verstappen, with every subsequent second driver performing below expectations, leading many to joke that the second seat was cursed. 

Pierre Gasly, who had shown potential in Toro Rosso in 2018, moved to Red Bull the following season to partner Verstappen. As we all know, he endured a torrid time before being demoted back to Toro Rosso for Alex Albon who was barely halfway into his rookie season.

During the 2020 season, it was Albon’s turn to have an inconsistent season and underperform. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez, a highly experienced driver with good performances in 2020, was just dropped from Racing Point for 2021. Perez went on to win the Sakhir Grand Prix late in the season and when the time came to decide who to go with for 2021, it became a no-brainer. 

This similar pattern of dropping drivers was also evident in Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri and the junior team.  Drivers were ruthlessly dropped immediately after dissatisfactory performances or seasons. Callum Ilott, Albon and Hartley were dropped from the junior team after they had a winless season, while Toro Rosso drivers were dropped after 1-2 seasons even though they were in an inferior car which were perennial backmarkers. 

Some say that the Red Bull Juniors, Gasly and Albon were simply not good enough and the situation was way over their heads, while some others felt they had the capabilities but failed to capitalise and rise up to the occasion. But the real reason could be Helmut Marko and Dietrich Mateschitz. 

The impatience of Marko and Mateschitz

Marko and Mateschitz are known to be very impatient people. One is very efficient and the other is an excellent businessman. They want good results and they want it fast. As a businessman, Mateschitz wants returns on his investments. When an investment is not reaping the expected returns, losses should be cut and the investment let go or withdrawn. This mentality has been similarly applied to drivers in the junior team, AlphaTauri and Red Bull. 

Having experienced the generationally talented likes of Vettel and Verstappen who were able to immediately put in excellent winning performances once inside an F1 car, Marko and Mateschitz seem to have heaped the same kind of expectations onto younger drivers. These drivers were simply not given enough time to develop, improve their racecraft and take up that second seat.

Helmut Marko’s pride

Let’s face it. No one likes to be wrong and Helmut Marko is probably no exception. When Marko chooses to drop someone, it’s quite unlikely that he will recall them back to the team. Daniil Kvyat has probably had the most chances for an F1 seat, given he had 3 stints at Toro Rosso and some time in Red Bull as well. After getting dropped for the third time, Kvyat ruled out a possible recall to AlphaTauri despite Tsunoda’s struggles. He remarked jokingly on F1 Nation podcast that “Pride might be in the way of giving him a call back” because it would be like “admitting it was a mistake” to drop him. This gives a possible insight as to why Red Bull promoted a rookie Albon in mid-2019 instead of the more experienced Kvyat who was performing better at that time. The decision made no sense as Kvyat’s previous stint in Red Bull actually yielded respectable results and he managed to snag Toro Rosso’s first podium since Vettel. Despite all this, it seemed like they did not want to try out Kvyat again. Likewise for Gasly, Marko has downplayed his achievements so far and has been extremely reluctant to recall Gasly back to Red Bull.

A different outcome?

As an Albon fan, it’s disappointing to not see him on the grid, but signing Sergio Perez was definitely the right move by Red Bull and so far this season, it has seemed to pay off. Nonetheless, we can consider how different things would have turned out if Red Bull handled things differently.

When given enough time to develop and improve, these drivers can show that they’re definitely capable of much more. 2 drivers which clearly have displayed that are Callum Ilott and Pierre Gasly. After Red Bull dropped Ilott, he went on to develop himself into one of the best young drivers, finishing second in F2 and definitely would have got a F1 seat were it not for Haas signing Mazepin instead. Gasly as we all know had his wonderful redemption arc after returning to Toro Rosso, regaining his confidence and driving the wheels off the AlphaTauri to record a couple of podiums and a historic first win at Monza. 

For all we know, if Red Bull had given them more time to develop, Ilott could have become a solid option for Red Bull in the next few years and maybe we could have seen a confident Gasly partnering Verstappen for 2021 instead of Perez.

If Marko’s stubborn pride wasn’t such a stumbling block to recall previous drivers, then maybe Gasly could be recalled to Red Bull or Daniil Kvyat could recreate and improve his previous form in Red Bull and be a solid second driver and partner to Max Verstappen. (Although Kelly Piquet in the paddock might be really awkward for them now)

Let’s not forget about Alex Albon who showed great potential and promise in his rookie season. If they weren’t so impatient to promote him early and instead give him time to develop, maybe he could have become a good option as well, but we may never know now.

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Alpine vs. Aston Martin: Who Has Performed Better So Far, and Who Will Come Out on Top?

Written by: Morgan Holiday, Edited by: Daniel Yi

The 2021 season of Formula 1 has seen the introduction of two “new” teams. Alpine (rebranded from Renault), and Aston Martin (rebranded from Racing Point). Last year’s Racing Point was arguably the third fastest car on the grid, only finishing fourth in the constructor’s championship due to a 15 point penalty imposed on the team by the FIA for copying the 2019 Mercedes W10, while Renault finished fifth. 

This year, both teams performances have been closer, with Aston Martin suffering a performance loss most likely due to new regulations hurting their low rake car. Going into the summer break, Alpine has the lead over Aston Martin, sitting fifth in the Constructors Championship with 77 points, while Aston Martin with 48 points is 7th behind AlphaTauri. 

So far, which team has had the upper hand has been dependent on the race weekend. At the season opener in Bahrain only one point was scored for Aston Martin by Lance Stroll, while his teammate Sebastian Vettel was out of the points. Fortunately for them, Alpine didn’t manage to score points either, with Esteban Ocon in 13th place and Fernando Alonso retiring from the race. Aston Martin also outscored Alpine during the second round in Imola, but a 7th and 8th place finish for Alpine in Portugal set them on the track to recover from their pointless start to the season.

Sebastian Vettel collided with Esteban Ocon in Bahrain

Aston Martin was the first of the two teams to take a maiden podium, with Vettel’s P2 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. After a rough start to the season, Vettel has been slowly making progress, in contrast to his teammate Stroll, who started strong but currently sits P14 in the standings with a mere 18 points to his name.

Of course, Alpine’s big moment came at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the final race before the summer break. Turn 1 chaos and a little bit of rain allowed Ocon to come away with his first win, as well as the maiden win for the rebranded Alpine. Alonso finished the Hungarian Grand Prix in fourth, after a stunning effort to defend from Lewis Hamilton for several laps in a car much slower than the Mercedes. Questions about whether Alonso was fit for a return to Formula 1 were answered as the Spaniard had his best finish of the season so far.

Alonso & Ocon embrace following Alpine’s maiden win in Hungary

In contrast, Aston Martin had a weekend to forget, with Vettel’s hard won P2 resulting in a DSQ after the team failed to provide a sufficient fuel sample. Their efforts to appeal this ruling were shut down, and that tragedy, along with Stroll’s DNF at the start of the race, saw Alpine pull away from their rivals with a strong lead. 

Although both teams struggled at the start of the 2021 season and failed to live up to expectations, it seems that Alpine has done a better job of recovering. Aston Martin had a better start, but then dropped off a little whereas Alpine has slowly but surely been making a comeback. And while Aston Martin’s podium in Baku cannot be ignored as a point in their favor, Ocon giving Renault and team Enstone their first victory since Japan 2008, a race won by none other than Ocon’s current teammate Alonso, is a defining point, not just for the team but for the 2021 season as a whole. 

It’s possible Alpine will pull away from Aston Martin as the season continues, although the British racing team will be back with a vengeance after their devastating end to the first half of the season. There’s also AlphaTauri to contend with, who will be amongst the two teams in the fight for P5 in the constructor’s championship. Given both the team’s current trajectories, Alpine seems to be the one to bet on to win over it’s fellow rebranded team, although it’s clear that Aston Martin won’t go down without a fight.

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[Opinion] Why fangirling is NOT a good idea

Written by Tanishka Vashee and Hafiz Akbar

Edited by Daniel Yi

On the 14th of August, an image broke the internet. More specifically, it broke F1 social media. To be exact, it was an image of Mclaren’s starboy Lando Norris slow dancing with a young woman. It might seem nothing out of the ordinary and sure, it’s just another photo of a pair of lovers dancing on the beach. But what’s creepy about this is the fact that the photo in question was intended for private eyes, not public.

The screengrab was taken off someone’s private account. Norris, nor the young woman whose face we couldn’t see, were supposed to have their time off the hustle and bustle of the Formula One grid and all the media attention. Yet, it took no time for so-called “fans” to find the young woman’s identity through one blurry photograph (or in this instance, screenshot) off the internet. Sure, it’d been okay if these so-called “fans” just acknowledged that yes, Lando Norris is just another human being himself and wants the things we want, such as a romantic relationship. But no, they professed that they felt “heartbroken” and some even resorted to sending hate messages to the poor young woman.

It was shameful and disgusting to watch. The images were made public without their consent and it makes no sense to send hate to either of them. This whole fiasco got us pondering the question: Dear fans, do you think you own them?

Being an F1 driver is demanding on and off the track. When they’re not training, they’re engaged in promotional activities. They’re basically under the spotlight, under public scrutiny every other hour. As a result, they’re trained by their PR officers on how to interact with mainstream media. 

But with the rise of social media, another problem arises. They are never really disconnected. Don’t get me wrong, it’s refreshing to see them connect to their fans so well and remain this accessible on a common platform. But because of this, the previously solid line between strictly professional work and private life is slowly, but surely, fading away. 

People believe they know and have a right to know everything about their favourite celebrities and athletes. This is where you draw the line. As an audience, we can only see aspects of them they want us to see, and no, we are NOT entitled to an insight into their life just because we adore them. 

It’s hard enough living your life knowing that those around you judge you. Now imagine millions of people wanting to look into your life and wanting to comment on everything you do. It’s unfair and out of proportion. They’re racing drivers, for God’s sake, not Love Island celebrities.

The same goes for all Formula One drivers. Praising their skillset and adoring them is one thing. Invading their personal lives down to the finest of details are another. Plus, we’re pretty sure you wouldn’t like having someone or a total stranger for that matter, peer into whatever you’re doing all the time. That’s just mentally draining.

They are humans, they have needs, desires and dreams that they don’t necessarily want to share with millions of people at any given time. It doesn’t help mainstream media outlets write pieces like “A long list of Lewis Hamilton’s ex-lovers.”, “Who is Charles Leclerc’s ex-girlfriend and why did he break up with her?”, “Daniel Ricciardo’s ex-girlfriend shockingly moves on with another race driver from NZ” and the recent very public coverage of the F1 drivers that are vacationing in Greece. They’re having a vacation, for God’s sake. I’m sure everyone’s got something better to do than stalk someone having a vacay with their loved one.

Look, the drivers are as human as we are, minus the physical advantage they might have over us average joes. They need rest as much as the next person and this summer break is the perfect chance for them to enjoy themselves without being highlighted under the spotlight. So we think it’s best if we just leave them to whatever the hell they are up to.

Dear fans, it is one thing to appreciate their skill set and a completely different thing to invade their lives. Let’s leave them alone when they expect to be left alone and not disturb or even trespass on what’s considered normal. With the summer break almost coming to an end, we hope that these sorts of incidents don’t repeat and we focus more on racing.

Indonesia and Motorsports

Written by: Hafiz Akbar, Edited by: Daniel Yi

Indonesia, an island nation stretching over 1.9 million square kilometres with its fast-rising economy, stands 16th-largest by nominal GDP and 7th by PPP GDP and has a current resident population totalling more than 270 million> Indonesia’s population surpasses that of the entire western Europe combined, which is where we see most Formula One drivers hail from.

From those 270 million individuals currently living in Indonesia, only two drivers in history have driven in a Formula One car. 

Rio Haryanto

Let me introduce you to Rio Haryanto. he is an ex-Formula One driver which to be frank, is not all that special. But he is special because he is the first and only Indonesian in Formula One history to have ever driven competitively in a Formula One World Championship season when he started back in the 2016 Australian Grand Prix for Manor Racing. He hails from a rather higher class family (compared to society in Indonesia itself, at least), with his father owning a national stationery brand. Although his career isn’t one to immediately turn heads, his determination and sheer will to make it to Formula One surely turned heads, with massive growth in Formula One viewership in Indonesia, despite it shrinking globally. 

Haryanto’s Formula One career didn’t last long though. After his teammate, Pascal Wehrlein scored points, skeptics started questioning whether he was capable of being a Formula One driver. Combined with his sponsors not coming through, including the Indonesian government pulling their funding support, a string of bad results ended his career shortly after it started. His last entry was in the 2016 German Grand Prix in Hockenheimring.

Sean Gelael

At the same time, Indonesia also had another countryman in the GP2 championship. Introducing the chicken connoisseur, Sean Gelael. He is the second Indonesian to have ever driven a Formula One car in history, but not in a competition. Since 2017, Gelael was contracted by Scuderia Toro Rosso, now Scuderia AlphaTauri, as a test driver. He went on multiple drives of the STR14, the same car driven by Alex Albon, Daniil Kvyat, and Pierre Gasly when he was swapped with Alex Albon for the infamous Red Bull second seat. Gelael appeared in the Toro Rosso outfit on a few occasions during the length of his contract, with test days at the Hungaroring and Yas Marina along with FP1 and/or FP2 sessions in Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and Mexico for the 2017 season.

Gelael testing the STR14

As apparent as his talent in F2 and GP2, so was his funding. Just like Haryanto, Gelael originates from a family of considerable wealth. His father, Ricardo Gelael, is the owner of KFC Indonesia. That’s why you see KFC branding in almost all of his racing chassis, including the ones he currently drives, an LMP2 car run by Jota Sport.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking. Why did only two drivers make it to the big stage? Many factors come into consideration but it ultimately boils down to two things: money and exposure.

What about money?

Well, we know that racing is a very expensive sport to be in. Both Haryanto and Gelael, as mentioned in their respective paragraphs, hail from considerably wealthy families with multimillion-dollar industry companies. This further solidifies the fact that racing is undoubtedly very expensive. Take Esteban Ocon, for instance. His father sold their house to live in a motorhome to move between circuits for Esteban’s races, or Lewis Hamilton’s father, who worked up to four jobs at a time to keep Lewis’ races. Indonesian kids—nor parents in that matter—think that the extra cost of both monetary expenses and possible physical harm comes at a fair price (but let’s be fair, it does). Not to mention that Indonesian kids also think of the safest way possible for their future, like being an accountant or a civil servant, not to waste it all on some sort of racing career that might not even work out in the future. 

And what about exposure? 

Some of you might not know this but racing in Indonesia is viewed rather negatively since most of the races that are documented and reported (usually via social media and when things go from bad to sh*tstorm, mainstream media) are illegal street races. Instead of officially organized races in categories such as shifter karts or city cars, these toolbox-headed, so-called “racers” tarnish the image of what motorsport itself is all about, integrity and sportsmanship with their half-witted actions whilst breaking the law on public streets. The actions of those small groups of individuals sometimes result in big crashes and in some cases, death. 

That being said, with no rise in the serious interest of kids pursuing motorsports as a viable career option, we may see fewer and fewer Indonesian drivers in the motorsports scene. Personally, I’d hate to see that happen, since Indonesia is a vast country with loads of untapped potential (this opinion might be slightly biased since I’m an Indonesian national). As for the motorbike racers on the international stage, well that’s gonna be another topic for another article.

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YAMAHA SUSPENDS MAVERICK VIÑALES FOR ALLEGEDLY ATTEMPTING TO BLOW UP HIS ENGINE

Written by: Andrew Lwanga

Edited by: Daniel Yi

Maverick Viñales with Yamaha earlier this season

The ever tense and rocky relationship between Yamaha and Maverick Viñales may have finally reached its boiling point. 

In a statement released by Yamaha on Thursday morning, the team announced that it has withdrawn Viñales from the Austrian Grand Prix just one day before the race weekend. 

The suspension comes as a result of what the team has termed as “unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle by the rider during last weekend‘s Styria MotoGP race.”

At the Styria Grand Prix, Viñales finished the race in the pitlane due to what he called various electronics issues that resulted in a dashboard message informing him to pit. This has however been contradicted by various reports which suggest that the Spaniard tried to blow up the engine of his YZR-M1 on the way to the pits by over-revving it. This occurred despite the bike having a rev-limiter specifically for preventing actions of this nature. 

Yamaha further stated that it’s decision is based on analysis of the data collected in the days following the race. Despite the team withdrawing the Spaniard, Viñales will not be replaced for the Austrian Grand Prix. 

Yamaha’s statement further mentioned that Viñales’ participation in future races is subject to discussions between the rider and the team. 

Viñales, who was on a two year contract with the team had requested to be let go at the end of this season, a request that was granted. While his future remains uncertain, there were several reports that Viñales was in negotiations with Aprillia though nothing has been confirmed. Following this row, one would expect the Spaniard may not need to wait until season’s end to become a free agent. 

Read Yamaha’s full statement below.

 “Yamaha regrets to announce that Maverick Vinales‘ entry to this weekend‘s Austrian MotoGP event has been withdrawn by the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team.

“The absence follows the suspension of the rider by Yamaha due to the unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle by the rider during last weekend‘s Styria MotoGP race.

“Yamaha‘s decision follows an in-depth analysis of telemetry and data over the last days.

“Yamaha‘s conclusion is that the rider‘s actions could have potentially caused significant damage to the engine of his YZR-M1 bike which could have caused serious risks to the rider himself and possibly posed a danger to all other riders in the MotoGP race.

“The rider will not be replaced at the Austrian GP.

“Decisions regarding the future races will be taken after a more detailed analysis of the situation and further discussions between Yamaha and the rider.”

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Opinion: F1 Driver Development Programmes: Red Bull Suffering From Success?

Written by Daniel Yi, Edited by Andrea Teo.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions presented in this article are purely the author’s and do not represent the opinions and beliefs of Divebomb or its affiliates.

Gentlemen, a short view back to the past. Twenty years ago, Helmut Marko told us, “Take a promising young driver, place him into the Red Bull Junior Team, and he is able to drive in Formula 1.” Twenty years later, everyone else is saying, “Take a promising young driver, place him into the Red Bull Junior Team, and his F1 dreams will be ruined.” Question for the readers: How successful is the Red Bull Junior Team? Does it ruin the promising F1 careers of racing hopefuls? What are your wishes for the future concerning the drivers in the Red Bull programme? Should they stay on or leave? Will the dropped drivers have another chance? Or are they really not that good after all?

-Fake Quotes, 2021

Okay, so the above section was a fabricated joke. But it still raises a few valid questions about the Red Bull Junior Team. What happened to the promising former members of the Red Bull Junior Team? Is the Red Bull Junior Team really successful in generating talented drivers for F1? Why did Red Bull, a team that has always prided itself on using “home-grown academy talent” from their junior team, suddenly sign an “outsider” in Sergio Perez this season? 

Let us explore these three questions about the Red Bull Junior team today. Before we get into that however, a brief introduction and history of the Red Bull Junior Team.

History of the Red Bull Junior Team

There were actually two Red Bull Junior Teams. Back in 1989, Dr. Helmut Marko set up and ran a racing team, RSM Marko, which focused on competing in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 (now FIA Formula 2). RSM Marko then came under Red Bull sponsorship and ran under the name Red Bull Junior Team from 1999 until its end in 2003. 

The junior team that we know now first had its beginnings in 2001, when Red Bull formed the team as its European driver programme. Talented racers receive support and funding from Red Bull as they progress through lower ranks of motorsport.

Read more about the Red Bull Junior Team here.

Where are the former members of the Red Bull Junior Team? 

With a whopping 85 (both previous and current) members of the Red Bull Junior Team, it is impossible to focus on every single driver, therefore we will only be focusing on former members who have made it to F1 (either as a driver, test or reserve).

DriverYears as Red Bull JuniorWhere are they now?
1.Enrique Bernoldi1999-2000 Under Red Bull Junior Team (RSM Marko)Retired in 2016 after racing in GT, stock car Brasil.
2.Robert Doornbos2004Raced in Superleague Formula, IndyCar and A1GP
Last raced in 2020 Dutch Winter Endurance Series
Co-founded an adult toy production company
Currently with Ziggo Sport as an analyst
3.Patrick Friesacher2001-2003Raced in A1GP and American Le Mans
Currently an instructor at the Red Bull Ring
4.Narain Karthikeyan2004Raced in Super Formula with appearances in Auto GP and Super GT
Last raced in 2021 Asian Le Mans Series
5.Christian Klien2001-03Raced in GT and Endurance racing
Currently racing in 2021 International GT Open Pro-Am Cup
6.Vitantonio Liuzzi2002-04Raced in GT, WEC, Super Formula, Formula E and Esports
Last raced in 2020 The Race Legends Trophy
7.Sebastian Vettel2002-07Moved to Scuderia Ferrari from 2015 onwards
Currently with Aston Martin F1
8.Scott Speed2003-05Returned to US after Toro Rosso stint and raced in NASCAR, IndyCar and Rallycross
Made appearances in Formula E
9.Neel Jani2005-07Raced in A1GP and sportscars (GT and WEC)
Last raced in Formula E in 2019-2020 season
10.Michael Ammermüller2004-07Raced in A1GP, GT, and Porsche racing series
Won Porsche Supercup from 2017-2019
Last raced in ADAC GT Masters (1st place)
11.Brendon Hartley2006-10Raced in WEC, winning in 2015, 2017
Le Mans 24H winner: 2017, 2020
Currently racing in WEC with Toyota
12.Sébastien Buemi2005-08Racing in Formula E (2014-present), WEC (2012-present)
2015-16 Formula E Champion
24H of Le Mans winner: 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020
13.Jaime Alguersuari2006-09Last raced in Formula E in 2014-15
Retired to become a DJ
Debut album topped iTunes album five days after release
14.Daniel Ricciardo2008-11Moved to Renault F1 in 2019
Currently racing with McLaren F1
15.Jean-Éric Vergne2008-11Racing in Formula E (2014-present)
2-time Formula E Champion (2018, 2019)
16.Daniil Kvyat2010-13AlphaTauri contract not renewed for 2021
Current Alpine reserve driver
17.Carlos Sainz Jr.2010-14Moved to Renault F1 in 2017
Currently racing with Scuderia Ferrari
18.Max Verstappen2014Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri (2015-16)
Red Bull (2016-present)
19.Pierre Gasly2014-17Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri (2017-18, 2019-present)
Red Bull (2019)
20.Alexander Albon2012Red Bull contract not renewed for 2021
Current Red Bull test/reserve driver
Racing in DTM
21.Yuki Tsunoda2019-20AlphaTauri (2021-present)
22.Dan Ticktum2017-19Recently dropped as Williams Academy and development driver
23.Callum Ilott2015Current Ferrari/Alfa Romeo test/reserve driver
24.Sérgio Sette Câmara2016, 2020Currently racing in Formula E

Is the Red Bull Junior Team really successful in generating talented F1 drivers?

Many fans consider the Red Bull Junior Team to be a successful programme. But by just looking at the list above, only 22 out of 85 Red Bull Juniors have made their way into Formula 1. Statistically speaking, it means for every 4 Red Bull Juniors, only about one will make it to Formula 1, which isn’t exactly a strong association with success. So why is the Red Bull Junior Team still widely considered to be successful?

Achievement-wise, there has been success. However, in the early years of their programme, you would get laughed at if you thought the programme was a success. Before 2007, none of the drivers had any significant results in F1, until the arrival of Sebastian Vettel in the 2007 season.

Vettel went on to dominate from the later half of 2009 until 2013, winning four world championships. Then came Daniel Ricciardo, who won multiple races and contended for the championship for a couple of seasons. And more recently, generational talent Max Verstappen, who won his debut race with Red Bull, and has the chance to end Mercedes’ dominance and dethrone Lewis Hamilton in 2021. These three drivers are considered to be Red Bull’s most successful protégés and between them, they have a combined 75 wins, 68 pole positions, 67 fastest laps, 203 podiums and 5606 points.

In terms of driver quality they have been very good as well. In the mid-2000s, Red Bull had not yet become the dominating force they are today, and Toro Rosso was a perennial backmarker instead of contending in the midfield, which limited the achievements and impact early Junior Team graduates could make. Nonetheless, out of these 22 drivers, almost half of these graduates have had some form of achievement in F1.

Albon, Sainz and Kvyat have had multiple podium finishes. Gasly, Ricciardo and Verstappen have won races, while Vettel won four World Championships with Red Bull.

Several drivers have also been successful in other racing series outside of F1. Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi have won multiple Le Mans and WEC championships, Michael Ammermüller has won multiple Porsche Supercups, while Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne have been massively successful in Formula E.

Currently, 6 out of the 20 drivers on the 2021 F1 grid were once part of the Red Bull Junior Team, namely, Sainz, Ricciardo, Vettel, Verstappen, Gasly and Tsunoda.

Given the success and quality of the junior team, this brings us to the next question:

Why did Red Bull, a team that has always prided itself on using “home-grown academy talent”, suddenly sign an “outsider” in Sergio Perez this season?

Because Red Bull had no good option for a second driver to help Verstappen in the title fight.

In the entire team history of Red Bull, with the exception of David Coulthard (2005-08) and Mark Webber (2007-13), who were signed in the team’s early years to provide a veteran presence, the drivers have all been Junior Team members.

In a somewhat surprising move, Red Bull had decided to sign Sergio Perez for the 2021 season, becoming the first non-Red Bull affiliated driver in seven seasons to race for them since Mark Webber.

This is the part where Red Bull and the junior team had failed, thus resulting in the signing of Perez.

Since the promotion of Verstappen to Red Bull in 2016, some fans believed that Red Bull were favouring Verstappen over the more senior Ricciardo, believing that to be the reason behind the departure of Ricciardo after 2018.

Since then, Red Bull had been unable to develop a suitable candidate to be the second driver alongside Verstappen, with every subsequent second driver performing below expectations, leading many to joke that the second seat was cursed.

Pierre Gasly, who had shown potential in Toro Rosso in 2018, was promoted to Red Bull in the following season to partner Verstappen. As we all know, he endured a torrid time before being demoted back to Toro Rosso, switching places with Alex Albon, who was barely halfway into his rookie season.

During the 2020 season, it was Albon’s turn to have an inconsistent season and underperform. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez, a highly experienced Racing Point driver with good performances in 2020, had been dropped by his team for the 2021 season. Perez went on to win the Sakhir Grand Prix late in the season, and when the time came to decide who to go with for 2021, it became a no-brainer.

This similar pattern of dropping drivers was also evident in Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri and the junior team. Drivers were ruthlessly dropped immediately after dissatisfactory performances or seasons. Callum Ilott, Alex Albon and Brendon Hartley were dropped from the junior team after they had a winless season, while Toro Rosso drivers were dropped after 1-2 seasons even though they were in an inferior car which were perennial backmarkers. 

Some say that the Red Bull Juniors, Gasly and Albon, were simply not good enough, and the situation was way over their heads, while others felt they had the capabilities but failed to capitalise and rise up to the occasion. But the real reason for their failure could be Helmut Marko and Dietrich Mateschitz.

The Impatience of Marko and Mateschitz

Marko and Mateschitz have been known to be very impatient people. The former is a very efficient man, while the latter is an excellent businessman. They want good results, and they want it fast.

As a businessman, Mateschitz wants returns on his investments. When an investment is not reaping the expected returns, losses should be cut and the investment is let go of or withdrawn. This mentality has been similarly applied to drivers in the junior team, AlphaTauri and Red Bull. 

Having experienced the generationally talented likes of Vettel and Verstappen, who were able to immediately put in excellent winning performances once inside an F1 car, Marko and Mateschitz seem to have heaped the same kind of expectations onto their younger drivers. These drivers were simply not given enough time to develop and improve their racecraft in order to take up that second seat.

Helmut Marko’s Pride

Let’s face it. No one likes to be wrong, and Helmut Marko is probably no exception. When Marko chooses to drop someone, it’s quite unlikely that he will recall them back to the team.

Daniil Kvyat has probably had the most chances for an F1 seat, given his three stints at Toro Rosso and some time in Red Bull as well. After getting dropped for the third time for the 2021 season, Kvyat ruled out a possible recall to AlphaTauri despite rookie Tsunoda’s struggles. He remarked jokingly on the F1 Nation podcast that “pride might be in the way of giving him a call back,” because it would be like “admitting it was a mistake” to drop him.

This gives a possible insight as to why Red Bull promoted a rookie Albon in mid-2019 instead of the more experienced Kvyat who was performing better at that time. The decision made no sense, as Kvyat’s previous stint in Red Bull actually yielded respectable results, and he managed to snag Toro Rosso’s first podium since Vettel. Despite all this, it seemed like they did not want to try out Kvyat again. Likewise for Gasly, Marko has downplayed his achievements so far and has been extremely reluctant to recall Gasly back to Red Bull.

A Different Outcome?

As an Albon fan, it’s disappointing not seeing him on the grid, but signing Sergio Perez was definitely the right move by Red Bull and so far this season, it has seemed to pay off. Nonetheless, we can consider how things would have turned out if Red Bull handled things differently.

When given enough time to develop and improve, these drivers have shown that they are definitely capable of much more. Two drivers who clearly have displayed that are Callum Ilott and Pierre Gasly. After Red Bull dropped Ilott, he went on to develop himself into one of the best young drivers, finishing second in F2, and definitely would have gotten an F1 seat in 2021, were it not for Haas signing Mazepin instead.

Gasly, as we all know, had his wonderful redemption arc after returning to Toro Rosso, regaining his confidence and driving the wheels off the AlphaTauri to record a couple of podiums and a historic first win at Monza. 

For all we know, if Red Bull had given them more time to develop, Ilott could have become a solid option for Red Bull in the next few years, and maybe we could have seen a confident Gasly partnering Verstappen for 2021 instead of Perez.

If Marko’s stubborn pride wasn’t such a stumbling block to recall previous drivers, then maybe Gasly could be recalled to Red Bull or Daniil Kvyat could recreate and improve his previous form in Red Bull and be a solid second driver and partner to Max Verstappen (although Kelly Piquet in the paddock might be really awkward for them now).

Let’s not forget about Alex Albon who showed great potential and promise in his rookie season. If they weren’t so impatient to promote him early and instead gave him time to develop, maybe he could have become a good option as well, but we may never know now.

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