The Red Bull driver merry-go-round

Jaime Alguersuari is one of many young drivers backed by Red Bull

Jaime Alguersuari is one of many young drivers backed by Red Bull

Toro Rosso has confirmed Sebastien Bourdais will not race for the team at the Hungarian Grand Prix next weekend. Jaime Alguersuari is expected to take over his place.

This sparked a debate here about whether the Spanish 19-year-old is ready for F1 yet. But Red Bull’s policy of getting racers from their young driver scheme into F1 as quickly as possible has turned up at least one diamond so far.

Red Bull’s young driver scheme has racers in several major categories around the world – including Algueruari and Brendon Hartley, who were team mates in British Formula Three last year.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo is Red Bull’s representative in British F3 year. In Formula Two Red Bull is backing Mikhail Aleshin, Mirko Bortolotti and Robert Wickens. Mika Maki (Formula Three Euro Series), Daniel Juncadella (Formula BMW Europe) and Jean Eric Vergne (Formula Renault 2.0 Europe) are also on the company’s books.

No other team monitors as broad a talent pool in the junior categories as Red Bull. But how well does it work for them? These are the drivers Red Bull has promoted to its two F1 teams so far, most of whom enjoyed their backing at junior level (Coulthard, Webber and Bourdais are the exceptions):

David Coulthard – 72 starts (2005-2008)
Christian Klien – 29 (2005-2006)
Vitantonio Liuzzi* – 39 (2005-2007)
Scott Speed – 28 (2006-2007)
Robert Doornbos – 3 (2006)
Mark Webber – 44 (2007-present)
Sebastian Vettel** – 34 (2007-present)
Sebastien Bourdais – 27 (2008-present)
Sebastien Buemi – 9 (2009)
Jaime Alguersuari – ?

*Four for Red Bull and 35 for Toro Rosso
**25 for Toro Rosso and nine for Red Bull

At this stage there’s been more misses than hits. Four of the junior team drivers aren’t racing in F1 any more. Sebastien Buemi is only nine races into his F1 career and it’s too early to make a call on how well he’ll do.

You have to wonder how wise some of their decisions were. The defunct American Red Bull Driver Search – which had the motto “Searching for the future American F1 champion” – wound up after Scott Speed was placed at Toro Rosso for 2006. Unfortunately, he was dropped halfway through 2007.

But the man who replaced him – Sebastian Vettel – has clearly been the young driver programme’s greatest success story.

Other teams seem to try to cherry-pick junior drivers as best they can. Some, like Ferrari and McLaren, rarely look beyond active F1 drivers for their next hires.

Red Bull’s more proactive approach – which we might call ‘panning for gold’ – may look like a more attractive option if it can continue to unearth drivers of Vettel’s ability.

Perhaps that’s why Ferrari took the unusual step of testing three young drivers – including the impressive Bortolotti – at the end of last year?

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43 comments on The Red Bull driver merry-go-round

  1. zplol said on 16th July 2009, 7:22

    IIRC, Last year teams had young drivers test days allowed and Ferrari decided to use them (most did not)

  2. gabal said on 16th July 2009, 8:10

    I’m not sure how much Red Bull’s driver program really benefited young drivers. I’m not sure how much chance did they get before being discarded. Also, I find it ironic that Red Bull was putting so much emphasis on young drivers and yet they had the oldest driver pair in RBR untill last year.

    One thing is for sure – BMW must be gutted for letting Vettel go…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th July 2009, 10:38

      But that’s the thing – BMW didn’t have a choice about Vettel, when he made his debut in F1 with them he was already on a long-term contract with Red Bull. Smart move.

      • Adrian said on 17th July 2009, 13:14

        I’m just gutted because 2 years ago at the British GP I had chance to go to a meet ‘n’ greet with Seb Vettel and chose not to as he was only a test driver… D’Oh!!

  3. Wow, that front wing is tiny!

  4. WidowFactory said on 16th July 2009, 8:59

    I think we can expect McLaren to improve their young drivers programme after the Hamilton success story.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th July 2009, 11:27

      The other driver they had on their books was Giedo van der Garde. He won the World Series by Renault last year and is in GP2 this year with Timo Glock’s old team (iSport), but not doing very well. I don’t know if he’s still backed by McLaren in any way.

  5. PJA said on 16th July 2009, 9:00

    When did Red Bull start its young driver scheme wasn’t before it had its own F1 team when it was still just a sponsor in F1?

    Before Vettel came along you would of have to question just how well the Red Bull program was run. And although they started out with the experience/young driver combo in 2005 they dropped that policy in 2007 when they had Coulthard and Webber in the main team, although by then they had a B team they could use for their inexperienced drivers.

    I think after what happened with McLaren and Hamilton it showed other teams the benefit of finding a talented driver and supporting him from an early age.

  6. ajokay said on 16th July 2009, 9:20

    At least it’ll be even easier to tell the Toro Rossos apart from the Red Bulls from the next race onwards (aside from them being at opposite ends of the grid).

    I’m guessing Aglee-sairy will bring his bright orange and white Repsol stripes along for the ride on the sidepods.

    Well, I hope he doesn’t embaress himself or end up taking somone out. F3 to F1 is a big step, although a select few others have managed it in the past. But then there’s always the flip side of the coin where he could be another Ide or Rossett.

  7. PJA said on 16th July 2009, 9:30

    Well it is official that Bourdais has left, but Toro Rosso hasn’t confirmed his replacement yet.

    • Aaron Shearer said on 16th July 2009, 10:13

      That’s disappointing I was really starting to like him. Hopefully he’ll get into sports cars…

      Anyway I hope that they make the replacement someone worth while.

  8. Tiomkin said on 16th July 2009, 10:33

    Think of it this way, A driver is just a ‘part’ of the car. Just like the any other bit. If it doesn’t perform well, it gets altered or replaced.

    I liked him, he bucked the trend as the only F1 driver to wear spectacles.

    • Katy said on 16th July 2009, 12:00

      Hehe you liked him cos he wore glasses, nice reason :-P I can’t say I’m a fan, he whinges too much, and that’s coming from someone that whinges a lot!

  9. maff said on 16th July 2009, 10:58

    They should stick Coultard in the car, it would benefit Buemi Massively, get the Torro Rosso up to speed with the new devs from Redbull and be a bit of fun for DC. Win, Win situation.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th July 2009, 11:11

      Not a bad idea, that.

    • Oliver said on 16th July 2009, 11:15

      Coulthard is spent no point going down that route. STR have nothing to lose, they are already behind ForceIndia.

      • Aaron Shearer said on 16th July 2009, 11:36

        True but at least Coulthard is able to setup the car so that Buemi can copy his setup. Button anyone? haha

        • FLIG said on 16th July 2009, 11:53

          hahah! Watch out, Aaron, you’ll get a lot of british angry feedback on this one.

          • Aaron Shearer said on 16th July 2009, 12:18

            I’m Scottish myself so i don’t mind too much :-) Yeah I’d really like to see Coulthard back in a car again though. Suppose I’ll just have to wait until ROC.

      • manatcna said on 16th July 2009, 23:36

        Are you sure about that?
        Toro Rosso 5
        Force India 0

        • Antifia said on 17th July 2009, 13:03

          He is not talking about points in the season but rather their relative performance vis a vis each other in the last few races.

  10. STR have a woefully poor record of managing their drivers. Speed, Liuzzi and Bourdais were all extremely poorly treated purely because they weren’t Sebastian Vettel. It’s even reported that Franz Tost physically assaulted Speed on one occasion.

    • ajokay said on 16th July 2009, 14:06

      Scott Speed was really, really awful, though.

    • Oliver said on 16th July 2009, 17:16

      I agree completely. Imagine having a 19yr old saying a driver is out of team and he is replacing him, that is totally poor management, if this is their style of treating drivers, I hope they remain where they are.

  11. FLIG said on 16th July 2009, 11:56

    Well, I kind of dislike the situation. When Berger was there “going for it” they even managed to top Red Bull in more than one occasion. RBR then saw that they had to change some stuff (drivers and engineers from STR to RBR) and now STR is the worst team on the grid, obviously just a “test” for those who want to go to RBR. That’s wrong.

    • carlos said on 16th July 2009, 22:16

      So true. Last year they did very well against RBR and this year they suck.SB is not to blame but the dog he is stuck driving with. awful car and not even Schumi could manage this one.

  12. Williams 4ever said on 16th July 2009, 12:26

    Happy for Bourdais. The fellow is Released and Relieved. The time of uncertainty is gone, I am sure this situation is much better than having to work for most “unprofessional” team management around. Of all the drivers they handled only Vettel had good time and only during his times the team got regular “upgrades” from parent team. And maybe that was because he had backing of Parent management , any trouble to him may have probably resulted dietrich mateschitz giving Tost a “Physical” :D

  13. m0tion said on 16th July 2009, 12:51

    Maybe Piquet?

  14. Ronman said on 16th July 2009, 12:53

    “Team sources however indicate that the Alguersuari test was always scheduled and that he remains in his official role as third and reserve driver.”

    the above is off the f1-live site. i looked in other places and i couldn’t see a solid confirmation that Alguesari will be driving in hungary… why is that?

    • Gman said on 16th July 2009, 20:04

      They probably want to wait a few days and put out a separate release that drums up plenty of speculation that Jamie is the next coming of Alonso….

  15. GooddayBruce said on 16th July 2009, 13:01

    I was saying this while Hamilton was having his success.

    What is the point of investing all the time and effort in developing a race winning car, leaving nothing to chance, then just hoping to land a top driver when the car is ready to race. Far better, surely to make sure that you have the best guys on your books from day 0.

    I think that this will be the way it goes from now, you will have drivers being lined up for top drives and groomed for the big time in the way Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso were in the past and in the way that such as Alguesari, Hartley, Hulkenburg, Grosjean will be in the future.

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