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. Hallard said on 16th July 2009, 16:11

    Good luck Bourdais! Even with limited success in F1, there is no doubt he has a place in motorsports. I hope he races in Le Mans again, and maybe the ELMS/ALMS series. I hate to see drivers get the boot mid-season.

  2. Sergio de la Torre said on 16th July 2009, 16:59

    Alguersuari will test tomorrow with the new STR4B (straight test). Apart from aerodinamic pourpouses, must be valid for familiarizing with the wheel and car systems.

    • Sergio de la Torre said on 16th July 2009, 17:04

      *Edit: The test is running today in Vairano

    • Williams 4ever said on 16th July 2009, 19:05

      With that test under his belt, he has good excuse after his first lap DNF at Hungary on “why he couldn’t turn in 1st corner” :P

  3. Gman said on 16th July 2009, 20:21

    Regarding McLaren’s young driver program, Van Der Garde is still on the books, but the real prodigy in Woking is Oliver Rowland, a karting star who is already being toted as the next Lewis Hamilton. Must be pretty cool to have your name on a future Mclaren seat at age 15 as long as you don’t completely burn out….

    As for Red Bull and Speed, I applaud any attempt to get American talent onto the F1 grid, as there is plenty of talent in this country as long as someone look for and supports it. But from what I can see, they really tried to force the issue and slam a bunch of guys through the ranks, and the end result wasn’t stellar. If they had sorted things through a bit more, they probably would have had some lasting results, even if it took a year or so more.

    Like it or not, young driver programs are the wave of the future. We’ll see if young Jamie is ready or not in a few days I suppose- his performance will be a very good indicator of the advisability of putting drivers who are so young and inexperienced into the sport, especially in the middle of the season when they have limited testing mileage.

  4. Leaf said on 16th July 2009, 20:58

    Hey,
    Is this guy required to change his first name to Sebastian?
    :-))

    • FLIG said on 16th July 2009, 22:19

      I hate the fact that we are already looking for “The new Alonso” or “the new Hamilton”. These guys have barely started, they still have a good 6 to 10 years ahead of them and people are already looking for their replacements? It’s becoming the same as football, and football is already stupid enough, right?

  5. Max should resign now!!! said on 16th July 2009, 22:07

    i know this is off topic but that car looks better than current F1 cars.

  6. Brian said on 18th July 2009, 3:30

    Bourdais is seeking legal action according to a story on http://www.tsn.ca

  7. Shomir said on 8th November 2009, 8:32

    im sure bourdais is gonna get a seat next year in F1.

    He May not be good enought for str but he is at the very least STILL getting some points.

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