Column | Red Bull Academy issues are extensive

23-06-2021 08:30
Column
Column | Red Bull Academy issues are extensive

Red Bull has been known to propel drivers rapidly through their driver program, with multiple making it to the top league of motorsport and proving their mettle on the big stage. However, the French Grand Prix provided an insight into the recent Red Bull academy’s shortfalls.

AlphaTauri 

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda is certainly not overrated. His ascension into F1 is resultant of his stellar performances in his short time in single-seaters, culminating in 3rd place in the 2020 F2 standings. As a rookie in F2, this was impressive enough to warrant his promotion to F1. He certainly has the capability and skill to achieve greatness and does have the ability to make sharp overtakes, making sublime overtakes on world champions like Vettel and Alonso. Unfortunately, he has now had two qualifying incidents, in Imola, Baku and France, all hindering him from achieving strong points finishes. Pierre Gasly has now scored 37 out of Alpha Tauri’s 45 points, with the team locked in a close fight with Aston Martin & Alpine.

Risk mitigation & caution are all things that rookie drivers learn. Accidents can occur but they can also be reduced through experience, when drivers garner an understanding of where they can push more & how much by. Could Tsunoda have potentially prevented some mistakes by extending his time in Formula 2 and geared up for an attack at the F2 title?

Red Bull

Racing tyres are difficult to manage. Drivers need to maximise speeds through corners while maintaining tyre temperatures to minimise degradation. Circuit Paul Ricard, after heavy rain, exposed a slippery track surface which caused cars to slide through corners, affecting tyre wear. This caused different tyre wear levels in heavy contrast to what the teams saw in their practice long runs. It would’ve only been possible for a driver with a deep understanding of tyre management to apply pressure from a one-stop strategy under those circumstances. Thus, Perez was able to manage his tyre wear & muster a late charge to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for the final podium position, aiding to maximise Red Bull’s points haul from the weekend.

Previous Red Bull drivers Pierre Gasly & Alex Albon struggled on several occasions to remain within the pitstop windows of their teammates and their immediate on-track rivals. This resulted in greater freedom for those rivals to pit & go on a renewed charge against Max Verstappen, or challenge for the fastest point of the race. Perez’s recent showings have proven the importance of having both drivers in the mix, and available to disrupt any alternate strategies by rival teams.

Verdict

Red Bull’s ability for talent spotting is undoubtedly one of the best. They’ve been able to grow talents like Ricciardo, Gasly, Sainz and Albon in their ranks, all of which have shown great skill and achieved well in their careers. Yet, France displays the issues which have been ailing the teams in recent memories. Instead of allowing young drivers to hone their craft and learn the steep knowledge curve in F1, the academy pushes the drivers far up the ladder and places them in the glaring spotlight of media, fans and team management.

Red Bull may need to cultivate fewer options and spend more time on ensuring they’re comfortable with their progression, instead of placing them under situations where they eventually lose their drivers.

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