The Red Bull Junior Team is one of the most prestigious elite sport youth academies on the planet, with some of the biggest names in Formula 1 today having come through the remarkable system.
Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda, and Carlos Sainz are just some of the drivers who made it to the pinnacle of motorsport through the system, with each having varied levels of success.
The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they were very successful at a junior level, something which ultimately resulted in each driver being promoted to F1, typically starting life at AlphaTauri (or Toro Rosso, as it was formerly known).
The usual route for a Red Bull junior driver is to join the team during their junior career, resulting in them completing their days in the lower categories with the backing of the Austrians.
As mentioned, if successful then Red Bull usually promote them to AlphaTauri first, before eventually moving them into the main Red Bull outfit should they be good enough.
This is exactly what happened with Verstappen and with Vettel, amongst others, proving that their system of generating talent worthy of racing in F1 is working; however, it appears to have grinded to a halt ever so slightly.
Following Gasly’s move to Alpine, the Red Bull family had an opportunity to promote a junior driver into AlphaTauri, to race alongside Tsunoda.
Interestingly, though, they opted to poach 27-year-old Nyck de Vries from Mercedes, due to not believing that any of their drivers were ready.
It’s the first real time that the Red Bull family have looked beyond the horizon for a driver to join AlphaTauri, especially as it blocks the route to F1 for the likes of Liam Lawson.
Another opportunity to promote a junior driver could come in 2024, with Tsunoda being out-of-contract at the end of 2023.
With that in mind, Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko was asked how the junior team is currently looking, with the Austrian appearing to favour Isack Hadjar, who claimed four wins in 2022 during his rookie F3 campaign.
“First and foremost the Frenchman Isack Hadjar, whom I call the little Prost because he looks like the big one,” Marko told Auto Motor und Sport.
“Then we have Zane Maloney, a talent from Barbados, and Enzo Fittipaldi [both new recruits]. They will drive for us in Formula 2 and have to prove themselves there.
“The key is to be consistently at the front there. Our Liam Lawson was not there at times. In the end, he delivered good races again. Then we had Jüri Vips, who once said the wrong word and was finished after that. Which is certainly not right either. As a young lad of 21, you can say something stupid.
“Sebastian Montoya is still driving for us in Formula 3. So we have a broad base. But if, like this year, no top driver presents himself, then we look around on the outside market. And that’s where we got [Nyck] de Vries.
“At the end of the day, we need drivers who have the potential to win a Grand Prix at some point. And we didn’t have that.”