The issue with the Red Bull Junior Team

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 27: Liam Lawson (member of the Red Bull Junior Team) during the Round 11: Spa-Francorchamps Sprint race of the Formula 2 Championship at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2022 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Since the inception of the program in 2001, the Red Bull Junior Team has developed a reputation for being ruthless. Let’s analyze.

The Red Bull Junior Team is a development driver program that was created over 20 years ago. Based in Milton Keynes, UK its aim is to nurture and enhance the stars of tomorrow. Having churned out megastars Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, the program also has a massive turnover rate with many young drivers who have left or been kicked out.

2022 Formula 3 vice-champion Zane Maloney recently announced he would be joining the program as well as stepping into a role as a 2023 Formula 1 reserve driver for the Red Bull team alongside Liam Lawson. The Barbadian is expected to drive for Carlin during the 2023 F2 season after participating in their post-season test in November. However, unlike Lawson, Maloney has yet to gain any real experience in a Formula 1 car.

A few weeks prior to Maloney’s announcement, Formula 2 driver Enzo Fittipaldi also signed onto the program. The pair will now join a number of Red Bull Junior drivers who are expected to compete in Formula 2 next year – bringing the potential total up to seven.

Red Bull’s Junior Team History

Created by Formula 1 Red Bull Team Principal Helmut Marko, the junior program began finding success in 2004 – after client Christian Klein became the first driver to enter Formula 1. Then came Sebastian Vettel’s arrival in 2008. Vettel would go on to take four consecutive World Championships (2010 – 2013) as well as help the team win the Constructors Title.

Criticism

Throughout the team’s twenty-one-year history, they have taken over eighty young drivers under their wing. However, many of those drivers have left to join other junior teams, including Alpine’s Jack Doohan. Many drivers have been dropped after underperforming. Callum Ilott, who is now in IndyCar, was kicked out within a year due to a winless Formula 3 European campaign.

Compared to the other junior academies such as Alpine, Mercedes, & Ferrari the team has an exceptionally high turnover rate. It has also developed a reputation for being short and cut-throat with its drivers.

Helmut Marko has publicly shown dismay for the current batch of drivers in Formula 2, Dennis Hauger, Liam Lawson, and Jehan Deruvula, for being unsuccessful in their bid to win the championship. Marko has also stated that Formula 3 driver Isack Hadjar is the future and is hoping to graduate him into Formula 1 for Alpha Tauri in 2024. Hadjar is heavily rumored to be joining Formula 2 next year.

With the decision to turn Maloney into the Red Bull F1 reserve driver without experience, is Red Bull putting him under too much pressure too soon? And where does that leave the 2021 F3 Champion Dennis Hauger, who is still just 19?

Featured Image Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images