It has produced four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, has spring boarded Daniel Ricciardo to the top of the sport and has now seemingly discovered another exceptional talent in 19-year-old Daniil Kvyat.
I am talking about the Red Bull junior team, the most successful driver development programme in Formula One.
It has been bringing drivers through the system and into Formula One since it was founded in 2001, but who could be the next driver in line to progress to the elite series of motorsport and maybe go on to emulate Sebastian Vettel and become a Formula One champion?
Currently, there are three drivers being supported through by Red Bull in championships below Formula One, and all are extremely talented young men with genuine chances of making it all the way. Carlos Sainz Jr and Pierre Gasly are running in the Formula Renault 3.5 series whilst Britain’s Alex Lynn is competing in the GP3 category.
It is Carlos Sainz Jr who looks like he could be next to make the step to the Toro Rosso sister team of Red Bull, should a seat become available after this season. The 19-year-old struggled last year in the GP3 category finishing in tenth place overall, but the decision by Red Bull to stick with Carlos looks to have been a wise one as this year he is dominating his opponents in Formula Renault 3.5.
The Spaniard is leading the championship and has four race wins and five pole positions from seven rounds this season. He was simply unbeatable this past weekend in Spa-Francorchamps, where he took a double-win. He looks almost certain to claim the title and therefore could be all set to enter the Formula One scene.
Pierre Gasly, 18-years-old, was signed by the Red Bull team for this coming season after claiming the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title last campaign in an epic battle with Oliver Rowland which came down to the final race of the season. His speed and consistency that year were enough to gain the reward of Red Bull support and a the step up to the 3.5 category where he is second in the championship only to Sainz Jr.
He is yet to record a win in the series but again is showing the consistency required to keep himself in amongst the front-runners and as a rookie driver is performing unbelievably well. He seems certain to make it to Formula One eventually but it would be too early for him next season despite his obvious ability.
Finally, Alex Lynn was too given the opportunity to represent Red Bull with a drive in GP3 after his momentous win at the eagerly anticipated Macau Grand Prix which takes place annually. To have a victory in that event on your CV is a serious achievement.
His junior racing record generally is excellent and he is already looking like the man to beat in GP3 with a race win on the opening weekend. If he can win the championship, the 20-year-old will take heart from the fact that current Toro Rosso driver, Danl Kvyat, too won that title before being promoted straight to Formula One, even though other alternatives were competing at a higher level.
The Red Bull junior programme has a reputation for being the best around but with that comes a harsh selection process. Failure to perform will end in being dropped- as many young drivers have found out.
It is clear that Red Bull have three highly exciting individuals in their ranks and it would not be a surprise to see all three make it to Formula One at some stage. But Red Bull’s two drivers at the minute, Vettel and Ricciardo look like they will be there for a while and Kvyat, F1’s youngest ever point-scorer, is gaining huge recognition for his performances so far this season .
That leaves only one potential gap to fill, the seat of Jean-Eric Vergne. That is not to say that he will be dropped, but it is seemingly the most likely. The Frenchman is in his third season with Toro Rosso and has driven capably, but it is whether or not Red Bull believe he has that something special.
Because if they do not, the team will not hesitate to remove him and replace him with one of these three young, hungry and very fast drivers waiting in the wings for a shot. I strongly feel that if Carlos Sainz Jr goes on, as he should, to win the Renault 3.5 title, he will be in Formula One next year.
But Red Bull and their Team Principal Christian Horner will have their own opinions and their own personal detailed knowledge on all of their drivers. Long-term I think Pierre Gasly is the name to watch out for.
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