F1: Red Bull Junior Driver programme

In recent weeks Red Bull has been criticised for their treatment of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, with both drivers being dropped from Toro Rosso to make way for Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne and then labelled by Dr. Helmut Marko as “not winners”.

This has raised questions over the way the team has handled its Red Bull Junior Driver programme, as the same situation has happened in the past with the likes of Christian Klien, Vitantonio Liuzzi and the beautifully named Scott Speed, not to mention other drivers who got sidelined before they made it to a F1 racing seat, such as Neel Jani.

It has been pointed out by many that some of these names have been sidelined too early and that by applying the same logic we would never have had world champions such as Nigel Mansell, Jenson Button or Damon Hill or other F1 winners such as Gerhard Berger. For example, both Buemi and Alguersuari are under 23 and they could well be winners in the future with the right team and a good car.

Red Bull obviously runs the programme for its own benefit with the major achievement to date being the rise of Sebastian Vettel. Given the amount of participants in the programme, they have the luxury of being able to dump less successful drivers.  Some of them should look at the brighter side and realise that without Red Bull’s support they would not have made to F1 in the first place.

The main issue with Red Bull rejects seems to be lack of alternatives. These days, drivers build strong relationships with F1 teams and manufacturers quite early, some good examples outside the Red Bull world being Lewis Hamilton with McLaren, Paul di Resta with Mercedes, the Mexicans with Sauber, Valteri Bottas with Williams, various Japanese drivers with Honda and Toyota (when they were around). This means that teams basically have a number of drivers in the pipeline with others retire or move on. So, when Red Bull releases drivers who have been under their umbrella for years, it’s not obvious where they can move to re-start their careers. Surviving in Formula 1 is becoming tougher and tougher.

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