The Red Bull driver merry-go-round

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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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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

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

  2. 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…

    1. 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.

      1. 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
    16th July 2009, 8:59

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

    1. 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. 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. 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.

    1. In the 80’s everybody came from F3 – Senna, for example.

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

    1. Aaron Shearer
      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. 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.

    1. 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. 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.

    1. Not a bad idea, that.

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

      1. Aaron Shearer
        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

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

          1. Aaron Shearer
            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.

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

        1. 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.

    1. Scott Speed was really, really awful, though.

    2. 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. 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.

    1. 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
    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. Maybe Piquet?

  14. “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?

    1. 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
    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.

  16. 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.

  17. Sergio de la Torre
    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.

    1. Sergio de la Torre
      16th July 2009, 17:04

      *Edit: The test is running today in Vairano

    2. Williams 4ever
      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

  18. 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.

    1. If you can get them off Mcdonalds and KFC

  19. Hey,
    Is this guy required to change his first name to Sebastian?

    1. 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?

  20. Max should resign now!!!
    16th July 2009, 22:07

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

  21. Bourdais is seeking legal action according to a story on

  22. 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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