Why the Red Bull junior programme has been a failure

26-06-2022 18:00
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Is the Red Bull driver academy a failure? It’s a question that doesn’t really have an answer. However the Red Bull junior programme is without a shadow of a doubt the most controversial and most fascinating junior setup. It’s seen World Champions produced, and not just any old champion, arguably one of the greatest in Sebastian Vettel, however, they also go through drivers like they are going out of fashion.

However the Red Bull junior programme is without a shadow of a doubt the most controversial and most fascinating junior setup. It’s seen World Champions produced, and not just any old champion, arguably one of the greatest in Sebastian Vettel, however, they also go through drivers like they are going out of fashion.

Sebastian Vettel

We’ll start with Sebastian Vettel, the greatest product of the Red Bull Junior Programme without a shadow of a doubt, and if you say Verstappen is, you’re talking nonsense. Vettel won four World Championships in a row, two of which were utterly dominant. He wasn’t always a team player, multi 21 for example, but he was ruthless. His first title in 2010 set in motion one of the most dominant periods in the sport’s history. Although his latter days with the team were disappointing being beaten by Ricciardo in 2014, and a frustrating spell with Ferrari, Seb gets an A* from us.

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen is Red Bull’s golden boy and they would have done anything to make him World Champion which they did in 2021. He looks on course for a second this season and he truly is an immensely talented driver. He brings everything, drama, action on and off the track as Esteban Ocon found out, and he tends to speak his mind which will be refreshing to some. Verstappen may end up surpassing Vettel but until then, Max is getting an A on his Red Bull report card.

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo is one of the most popular men on the grid, although we’re not giving out points for that. However, he is still a really good driver. He raced for HRT before Toro Rosso in 2012 and 2013 before replacing fellow Aussie Mark Webber in 2014. He quickly made his mark, beating teammate Vettel in his first season. He has eight wins to his name and Over 1200 points. The team’s decision to prioritise Max meant he looked for pastures new, but he’s still seen success with Renault and now McLaren. Our favourite Aussie gets a B-.

Dan Ticktum

Daniel Ticktum. Clearly a super talented driver he joined the Red Bull junior setup in 2017 and would go on to win the Macau Grand Prix twice in 2017 and 2018, as well as being runner up in European Formula 3. During that campaign he found himself in hot water, questioning the excellent run of form from Prema and Mick Schumacher. He accused some fans that disagreed with him of having a ‘micropenis’ and callied Schumacher fans ‘butthurt’. Christian Horner  was quoted saying that he ‘sometimes engages mouth before brain’. After a short spell in the Super Formula Championship in 2019 he left Red Bull that year before joining the Williams Driver Academy. Whilst with Williams, a slightly more unusual incident occurred when he sung “Latifi is poo” to the tune of the Scooby Doo theme song whilst streaming on Twitch. Ticktum gets an A* for entertainment but an E for his spell with Red Bull. He’s now in Formula E.

Carlos Sainz

Carlos Sainz is a weird one. He’s the only man on this list to have real success away from Red Bull. He spent three years with Toro Rosso finishing fourth in Singapore in 2017. He’d move onto Renault full time in 2018 before McLaren came calling in 2019. Two podiums there before he joined Ferrari last season where alongside Charles Leclerc they have a good lineup despite the Spaniard yet to stand on top of the podium. One that got away for Red Bull, he gets a C but that’s as much the team’s fault as it is his.

Pierre Gasly

Pierre Gasly is another curious one. He failed at Red Bull when he was promoted in 2019, returning to Toro Rosso midway through the campaign. Alex Albon couldn’t do any better but both now find themselves succeeding elsewhere. Gasly in particular, back at Alpha Tauri he’s won races, finished on the podiums and is a great number one driver for the team. He’s tied down again for 2023 but it seems a matter of time until Gasly moves to a top team, with Mercedes, Alpine and McLaren all rumoured. Gasly’s a class act so he gets a C+ from me.

Alex Albon

The last of the drivers we’ll rank is Alex Albon. A stellar first half of 2019 saw him earn a promotion, but he found it tough going and was replaced by Sergio Perez after just a year and a half and two podiums. He’s now at Williams and proving a solid driver for a team on the comeback trail. However, it’s only good enough for a D.

The list goes on...

Some honourable mentions quickly, Yuki Tsunoda, Daniil Kvyat, Pat O’Ward, Brendan Hartley, Jehan Daruvala, Liam Lawson, Jean Eric Vergne, Scott Speed Sébastien Buemi, Karun Chandhok, Jaime Alguersuari, Vitantonio Liuzzi the list goes on. The point I’ll make is Red Bull have won five World Championships, both with drivers from their academy. However, the supporting driver has come from outside the programme, so either Red Bull aren’t patient enough with their support drivers or they’re not good enough so for that reason, the Red Bull Junior Programme gets a big fat F from me!

This was a script written for a video on the GP Blog YouTube channel.

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