ricciardo takes the bull by the horns
No sponsor has done more to promote young
drivers in recent years than energy drink
manufacturer Red Bull. Four-time Formula 1
World Champion Sebastian Vettel remains
the poster boy for the scheme, although it
shouldn’t be forgotten that he was also
backed by BMW – and his spell as Sauber-BMW’s third driver, which culminated in his
GP debut at the 2007 U.S. GP in Indianapolis,
was an important part of his education.
Daniel Ricciardo, in contrast, is a Red Bull
man to the core, as is Scuderia Toro Rosso
rookie Daniil Kvyat, who seems to have a bright
future with the company after an impressive
start to his F1 career. They’re the successes,
but many more have fallen by the wayside.
The lucky ones made it to F1, and were
usually given a couple of seasons to prove
themselves before it was deemed that they
didn’t quite have what it took. The list
includes Christian Klien ( 48 GPs), Tonio
Liuzzi ( 39), Scott Speed ( 28), Jaime
Alguersuari ( 46) and Sebastien Buemi
( 55), while Jean-Eric Vergne is currently in
his third season with Toro Rosso. Others
reached the fringes of F1, such as Neel
have got anywhere near F1 without Red Bull.
“The Red Bull program backs talent, and in
F1, or any sport at a high level, you’ve got to
deliver,” says Red Bull Racing team principal
Christian Horner. “If you’re fortunate enough
to be in the program, you have an opportunity.
It’s then down to the individuals how they use
that opportunity. If they’re good enough, they
emerge the other side, like Seb, or Daniel.
And it looks like Kvyat is from a similar ilk.
“And, of course, it’s also an opportunity for
Red Bull invests heavily in its junior driver program, but not everyone it supports makes it to the top of F1.
drivers who didn’t quite make it in F1, like
Buemi, who’s having a fantastic sports car
career now. Da Costa we’ve supported into
DTM, and he’s doing a great job for BMW. So
even if F1 doesn’t work out, it’s a springboard
for them to earn a living as a professional
driver, something they wouldn’t have
otherwise had without Red Bull support.”
It could be pointed out that dropping
drivers after paying for a couple of years of
F1 is an expensive way of going about
things, but Horner makes a good point:
“Yes it is, but compare the cost of Daniel to
some of the external options that were
available to us. We saved a fortune...”
Jani, Brendon Hartley and, more recently,
Antonio Felix da Costa, who was unexpectedly
overlooked in favor of Kvyat for the STR
seat, but some didn’t even get that far.
Sometimes it’s ended messily, but the
bottom line is most of these guys might not
Russian Daniil Kvyat is the latest Red Bull
protégé to be placed in its Toro Rosso
“incubator.” In his F1 debut at the 2014
Australian Grand Prix, the then-19-year-old
became the youngest point-scorer in history.
In 2006, Scott Speed became the first
American in F1 since Michael Andretti in
1993, but was dropped by Toro Rosso mid
way through ’07. Ironically, he now drives
for Andretti’s team in Global RallyCross.