Carlos Sainz Jnr, Alex Lynn, Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Ring, 2014

Red Bull put faith in youth as Vettel flees the nest

2014 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel, Helmut Marko, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2009Sebastian Vettel, without question the most successful product of the Red Bull Junior Team, will sever his ties with the team which backed him all the way from karting to the top of motor racing’s most prestigious championship.

Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with Lewis Hamilton’s decision to leave McLaren two years ago, having enjoyed their backing since boyhood. But while McLaren’s young driver programme has only occasionally brought drivers into F1, Red Bull’s policy is distinctly different.

When the team first appeared in Formula One ten years ago it drew on established talent – first David Coulthard, then Mark Webber. But since Webber’s departure at the end of last season both Red Bull and Toro Rosso have exclusively been homes to talents brought on by Red Bull through the junior categories.

Because of that Daniil Kvyat, who 12 months ago was a GP3 driver without an F1 contract, is about to join the world champions. The success Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed after his promotion to the top team this year, like Vettel before him, leaves little room for doubt Red Bull can get it right again.

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Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, Silverstone, 2014Ironically, Red Bull have found themselves needing to draw on their reserves of junior talent at a time when they have cut back the number of young drivers they are backing. The six-driver programme of 2013 was trimmed back to just three at the beginning of the year – though that was quickly boosted to four when Max Verstappen arrived on the scene.

The inevitable question which follows is which of Red Bull’s remaining juniors stands to claim the vacancy at Toro Rosso left by Kvyat.

The conservation decision would be to grant Jean-Eric Vergne a stay of execution, to avoid having two rookie drivers in the team. Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost may prefer that option, having previously described Vergne as the best driver the team had who didn’t make it into Red Bull.

However, as Tost acknowledges, Toro Rosso’s function is to be Red Bull’s kindergarten – the last step on the Junior Team ladder. And the empty seat which has opened up offers them a chance to avoid a potentially unfortunate side-effect of their rapid promotion of Verstappen.

Carlos Sainz Jnr might have felt a bit put out when he was ‘leapfrogged’ by Kvyat for a place at Toro Rosso last year. But missing out a second time to Verstappen in August was undoubtedly a blow, one DAMS team boss Jean-Paul Driot acknowledged had affected his driver.

Sainz’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship campaign appeared to have hit the skids until he arrived in Paul Ricard last weekend and delivered a pair of flawless wins which has left him almost out of reach of rival Roberto Merhi. He therefore stood to become the first of Red Bull’s Junior drivers to win the title – something Ricciardo and Vergne both failed to do – yet until today’s developments it seemed certain that would not be rewarded with an F1 driver. That may now change.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Alex Lynn, Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Ring, 2014Red Bull’s other options include runaway GP3 points leader Alex Lynn, though he hasn’t got Sainz’s F1 test experience. Pierre Gasly has been fast and consistent but win-less in Formula Renault 3.5 and it would be a surprise to see him make the jump unless Red Bull have seen something amazing when he’s in the simulator. They could even choose to bring Antonio Felix da Costa in from the DTM cold, though he seems to have fallen out of favour following a disappointing Formula Renault 3.5 campaign last year.

Whichever route they take, when Red Bull make their approaches to a new batch of young drivers ahead of next season, they will do so knowing their credentials for bringing new talent into F1 couldn’t be stronger. It stands in sharp contrast to the likes of Lotus, who named nine junior drivers at the beginning of the season, but made their most recent hiring from a rival team and who passed over their reserve driver Davide Valsecchi when they needed a stand-in at the end of last season.

Red Bull have cultivated a pool of young drivers, one which other teams may increasingly see the value of emulating. It walls off their talent from rival outfits – until the driver at the top decides it’s time to do something different.

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Images © Red Bull/Getty

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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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  • 52 comments on “Red Bull put faith in youth as Vettel flees the nest”

    1. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
      4th October 2014, 14:23

      Should have gone with Vergne IMO. Kyvat must show a lot of promise if he has been chosen over JEV.

      1. @collettdumbletonhall Having decided Vergne wasn’t good enough to stay at Toro Rosso they were never going to pick him over Kvyat to drive for Red Bull. And when you look at their qualifying and race scores, both of which are in the less experienced driver’s favour, it’s not hard to understand why.

        1. @heithcollantine what are you talking about? Verge has 19 points, Kvyat 8 points. You may also want to look at their results before Formula 1.

          1. Red Bull have absolutely all the data from both the drivers. That’s an advantage they have when dealing with this decision. They obviously didn’t think Vergne was quite as quick as Kvyat otherwise they would’ve kept Vergne in RBR. Heck, he wasn’t good enough as a Toro Rosso driver according to HM, forget about RBR.

          2. I suspect that with Torro Rosso being a team that is hard pressed to even finish in the points on Sundays, they’re not counting points so much as number of times one has out-qualified the other, and number of times one has finished ahead of the other, which is to Kvyat’s favour on both counts. Regarding the points status of 19 to 8, are you considering unreliability issues that may have caught Kvyat out? Not saying I have, but obviously RBR is reading between the lines when they pass on Vergne in favour of Kvyat.

            1. Kvyat’s unreliability issues? How you can ignore the even poorer reliability on Vergne’s car when you try to call that into Kvyat’s favor?

          3. @francorchamps17

            what are you talking about?

            The link I posted in that comment.

        2. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
          4th October 2014, 22:30

          Fair enough. I was mostly looking at the points.

    2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      4th October 2014, 14:29

      This is why I love F1; because every morning you have no idea what story you are going to wake up to, because even the most seasoned and rational onlookers, Kevin Eason, Martin Brundle and Jonathan Noble in this case, can be so wide of the mark. I have spent hours and written thousands of words in articles and posts beating the drum of 2015 driver market status quo, and I have never been happier to be wrong. Albeit only Kvyat’s move is the only official move at the moment, here is how 2015 is set to shape up…

      Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat
      Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen
      McLaren – Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen
      Toro Rosso – Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr

      Oh my God, wow, just wow…tasty too. Although I have spent the majority of 2014 slating the Red Bull Young Driver Programme over Verstappen, kudos to Red Bull for believing in young talent; Kvyat will shine in Red Bull I’m sure and just a week after Sainz looked set to join Da Costa on the Red Bull Junior Team’s rubbish heap of broken dreams, despite looking dead certain for the 2014 FR3.5 title, these past two days are looking dramatically more promising for the talented young Spaniard (although it would be wrong for Red Bull not also consider the future of the equally impressive Alex Lynn). For Vettel it is paramount to recover his stock by convincingly beating Raikkonen in 2015, and for Fernando burying the hatchet with Dennis, if Ron will allow him to (although I think Honda will tell Dennis, in the strongest possible terms, to both hire Alonso and brush their past relationship under the carpet), is essential for his future, but for an individual as pragmatic and intelligent as Alonso I don’t see that being an issue. Those are the key areas of interest I can foresee, and there’ll surely be more to analyse as it emerges!

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        4th October 2014, 14:59

        I would add to that by saying whilst Sainz is the most likely candidate for Kvyat’s seat, he has only been marginally the most convincing performer of 2014’s episode of the Red Bull driver conveyor belt, with his stablemates also formidable talents…

        Alex Lynn (2014 GP3 champion elect and 2013 Macau Grand Prix winner) – His season has been wrongly criticized for lacking in Sunday success, but it appears close to impossible to make passes in Dallara’s GP3/11 chassis without errors from the opposition. A consummately professional season long performance, and unlike Kvyat’s 2013 campaign (which arguably only ended in victory due to Arden’s steps forward on setup made over the summer break) was one of consistent speed and utter championship control. He should be considered a real contender for Kvyat’s seat.

        Pierre Gasly (2013 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion) – A fast young Frenchman in the mold of Verstappen and Kvyat. Perhaps lacking the final 1% of raw speed and experience, as demonstrated by his failure to convert his Race 2 Paul Ricard pole to victory thanks to Sainz. Would be a surprising choice for Kvyat’s seat.

        Carlos Sainz Jr (2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion elect) – Unquestionably the favourite for the seat on the basis of a) his fantastic 2014 FR3.5 performances and b) the impressively speed and confidence he has shown in F1 tests to date. Prone to ragged weekends, as was often the case in GP3 last year and in Moscow and Hungary this year, but mostly just a classy and fast young driver.

        Could it be even that the decision that appeared to skip Verstappen [wrongly] over the heads of Sainz/Lynn/Gasly only came when it became clear, or at least likely, that Vettel would leave and between Kvyat’s promotion and Vergne’s dismissal there’d be two Toro Rosso seats? Vettel has been courting Ferrari for years, and why should we necessarily believe Horner/Marko when they say they only found out last night when there is clearly such a culture for lying in the paddock?

        1. @william-brierty Hard to argue with anything you’ve said, and I sure can see those driver pairings you’ve spelled out. Leaves a Button undone though, eh?

          1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
            4th October 2014, 17:09

            @robbie – Indeed, but I don’t feel bad for Jenson. He’s had a fabulous career, is probably one of few drivers on the grid that can say he’s fully exploited his potential throughout his career. I know Jenson has the ambition to become a dad, but wanted to wait until after he stopped racing in F1, so hopefully he can have a great second chapter in his life and will not be short of ambassadorial job offers from McLaren, Honda and a litany of others. I’ve met Jenson countless times, he’s actually a friend of a friend, and I know it will not be easy for him to wave goodbye to what has been his life for seventeen years, but I also know his array of talents and disarming charm will see him succeed in his future endeavors. Good luck JB, it’s been an amazing fifteen seasons.

            1. @william-brierty You move in some high circles, having talked to both Lewis and Jenson :P.

              I agree on his career – many drivers will now struggle for 15 years in F1, given the continual preference for ‘the next big thing’, e.g. Lando Norris, 15, could be the next Button in 3 years’ time.

              Do you think Jenson would retire from racing altogether to have a baby, or just F1?

          2. @Robbie I see what you did there

        2. Its sad to see Button without a drive and Magnussen get it, he may old but he showed that he stil fighting,
          But other than that, I agree with all of your opinion and I looking forward to see how next season build up

          1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
            4th October 2014, 17:10

            @f1indofans – See my answer to @robbie above.

            1. @william-brierty Wow that is interesting. You’re obviously convinced this is it for JB, and being a friend of a friend you’ve got on insider’s feel for whats about to happen. I second your sentiments on JB and am also sure he has many options for the future even if not in a F1 car.

        3. I’d love to know what makes you so adamant that Red Bull were wrong with Verstappen?

        4. Would Gasly-Verstappen be the first ever dual-teenage line up? They would have a combined age of 36! @william-brierty

      2. What is the possibility of Vettel going to McLaren?

      3. @william-brierty – I can gracefully admit being happy about being wrong too. My last thrown in thought the other day was about this being a crazy world. We just never know what is going to happen next, especially true in the wacky world of F1. And that is not a bad thing as it spices up our lives.

        Your team line-ups make sense regardless of what is not yet being reported by multiple parties. I think there is something to what Brundle has said that now Alonso has placed himself in no man’s land. If the remaining contract between he and Ferrari was dissolved days ago then I suppose he already knew that before Vettel made his stunning announcement.

        Interesting to watch the drama now as Mattiacci, Alonso and Dennis talk and say nothing or even just walk away. Vettel is an imp for announcing his part when he did and we should be thankful for him trying to get a step up on 2015 while others are sorting their details. Meanwhile Dennis and Alonso behind the scenes must agree to disagree and then to agree. Honda is no doubt pushing and pulling to get this done. Wonder which side(s) have gained the upper hand in negotiations in the wake of Vettel’s surprise announcement.

        Since Kimi and Vettel have had issues with their respective cars this season, it will be interesting to see improvements from Ferrari and which driver can benefit the most.

        Honda, McLaren and Alonso had better hope that the power unit is all that. I think the first season a grace period of sorts can be somewhat expected. After that, the gloves are off.

        I still feel for JEV though I can understand why RBR made their choices the way they have. JEV still deserves a seat in F1 far more than a number of drivers likely to still have one next season.

        OK, we’re all primed and ready for more Formula 1 crazy news, bring it on!

    3. Vergne is leading 19-8 in terms of points, and Vergne even has one more retirement. Vergne and Ricciardo were evenly matched at Toro Rosso, and Ricciardo has been amazing this year. I think that says it all. Red Bull won’t u-turn that decision to axe Vergne. Surely that second Toro Rosso seat has Carlos Sainz Jr. written all over it…

      1. It’s a weird sport, isn’t it?

        1. More like a “rude sport”

    4. So it’s official; never trust anything a driver says about his employment for next year.
      Alonso and Vettel both have repeatedly said that they’re not going anywhere, yet here we are, both of them changing teams.
      Rumours are just rumours, but in the case of F1 they’re often true.

      1. There have been Alonso rumours for over 2 years now, if you keep on saying Alonso is leaving, well there’s always a time when you’re right …

        1. Yeah it’s true rumours are rumours until official announcements are, or can be, made, but it is understandable from contractual and business standpoints that the timing of the putting to bed of rumours is always precisely planned and by design.

      2. @merioksa
        Vettel actually lied on purpose in his last interview to Bild, BTW he apologized to the German journalists, Alonso departure is linked to the Ferrari restructuring policy set by Sergio Marchionne and executed by Marco Mattiacci (discontinuity with Luca’s vision over Ferrari) , the departure of Luca himself and Domenicali and the death of Emilio, i mean special circumstances lead to his departure.
        It was a chain reaction, and his departure triggered Vettel’s departure from RBR.
        Murray Walker “In F1 anything can happen and it usually does !!!!”

    5. Daniel and Daniil at Red Bull.

      NEWS JUST IN: Sebastien Buemi to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari to make an all “Seb” lineup.

      UPDATE: Lewis Hamilton leaves Mercedes, paving the way for Nico Hulkenberg to join the team for an all “Nico” lineup.

      AND FINALLY: Chilton joins the Red Bull Junior Team and takes the Toro Rosso seat. I expect to see Max performance at the team next year.

      1. Painfully unfunny.

        1. Lol…yup it’s a new strategy to counter the radio comm ban…FIA won’t know who is talking to whom so they won’t be able to apply penalties.

        2. speak for yourself! i found it funny =D

          Dont forget Bottas leaving Williams and felipe nazr joining for a proper brazilian FELIPE BABY team!

          1. Felipe.. Felipe is faster than you!

    6. Alonso “can choose” where to go: McLaren who is in even worse shape than Ferrari (next year without the saving grace of a Mercedes engine) or going home.

      Another year of top teams having a free place, another year of none of them wanting Alonso. Definitively a weird trend for who may be “the best” driver on the paddock.

    7. Kyvat was struggling a lot on race day in Singapore while Vergne did an awesome job.

      I think these young talents have the pace in F1 on the short-run but over the season – especially in difficult races with difficult conditions – they struggle.

      I also wasn´t surprised by Verstappen´s 12th place in FP but I doubt he will be ready for the whole 2015 season.

    8. Actually I think other teams having their own young drivers’ programmes is now more useless: just take on the Red Bull scraps! Red Bull are too good at their game and have been faced with the tough decisions to axe very good drivers just because there wasn’t a seat available. Buemi and Alguersuari were good, Vergne, as has been pointed out, matched Ricciardo at Toro Rosso, da Costa has been overlooked and Sainz was about to be. And there’s still Gasly and Lynn. Of course it’s more of a risk pointing on less drivers (McLaren have Vandoorne, Ferrari have Bianchi and Marciello, while de Vries and Stroll are still too far back) but if they’re good you hire them, end of the story. But Red Bull have too much to choose from and, who knows, they may get it wrong (who predicted Ricciardo to be so strong this year? Perhaps another surprise won’t turn out so positive).

      1. I guess the only thing I would worry about that would be getting the really good drivers. If you just pick up the dropouts then you may never get your hands on a Vettel. You could end up with only good but not great drivers.

      2. Don’t forget the future need for 3 drivers per team.

    9. ColdFly F1 (@)
      4th October 2014, 17:46

      And now the financial impact for Red Bull:
      Vettel at $22m leaving; Kvyat at $250k coming in.

      This year Ric & Kvy together get $1m.

      1. Perhaps that’s the way it should be – low (!) base pay but with good bonuses for actual results.
        There is something wrong with a driver getting paid 40x as much as the bloke who is comprehensively beating him.

        1. Yes, they’ll need that extra $20m to make up for the Renault PU shortfall! @coldfly @juan-fanger

          PS. Why keep Jenson, if Magnussen is faster than him for a similarly low salary?

    10. Sainz to Toro Rosso, Lynn into FR3.5 then?

      I think Sainz has enough experience at this point to fill JEV’s shoes, at least in terms of car development and consistency. The only question is where Lynn goes if these two driver lineups are fixed for a couple of seasons, he definitely looks like future F1 material.

      1. @george Indeed, I guess Lynn and Gasly now have a couple of seasons to try and win either GP2 or FR3.5. Gasly could win FR3.5, but Ocon and de Vries will be joining at least, and Rowland is good competition for him. But, Marko has also given him a run out in GP2 this year, indicating they think highly of him. Their end goals are to replace a struggling Toro Rosso driver, or promotion if Ricciardo jumps ship soon as well!

    11. MB (@muralibhats)
      4th October 2014, 22:14

      I used to hate Alonso, Kimi, Levis and Vettel during various stages of their F1 career. Strange that I have been also supporting them. Its not that they were bad. Circumstances i guess.

      1. MB (@muralibhats)
        4th October 2014, 22:25

        *Lewis Hamilton

    12. I am a bit shocked by Red Bull’s decision to promote Kvyat. I feel that even if Kvyat has the edge over Vergne *right now* (when comparing their qualifications and race battle against each other), it is very tight and one cannot say for sure that Kvyat or Vergne is a better racer than the other. In my opinion they are at the same level in terms of driving skills, which makes their “teammates battle” one of the most interesting in this season.

      The situation is close to the one we saw last year when Ricciardo was promoted to replace Mark Webber : both Vergne and Ricciardo were competitive (even if, being a JEV fan, I have to admit that Ricciardo had the edge over JEV). What surprises me (and disappoints me in some way) is that at that time, I remember Christian Horner telling that Ricciardo was chosen over JEV because he had more experience, and that was the deciding factor (Ricciardo having driven half a season more than Vergne).

      Obviously, reading Red Bull’s announcement that Vettel wouldn’t drive for them next year led me to the conclusion that the next in line for a RB seat was Vergne, being far more experienced than Kvyat. But no, Kvyat was chosen and I don’t really understand why, apart that maybe Red Bull didn’t want to see Vergne along Ricciardo in order to avoid an Hamilton-Rosberg situation (which could be more than probable according to me)

      I am also starting to doubt Red Bull’s Young Driver program, as it seems to me that it is a waste of talent. Alguersuari and Buemi both being sacked when they couldn’t do more with the car they had, JEV being “leapfrogged” by Kvyat, Carlos Saint Jr by Kvyat… More talented driver put aside than GP winners you would expect from a top team’s junior program, if you ask me.

    13. That picture of Marko holding Vettel is just a little Creepy ?

    14. I’m not surprised Vergne hasn’t been promoted. He and Ricciardo had enough time together for Redbull to get all the date they need on which driver has the edge.

      I suspect Vergne was left in Torro Rosso this year as a yardstick with which to measure Kvyat, and though he’s out performed him, so he should given his experience, but it has demonstrated Kvyats potential. If it had been two rookies this year their would be uncertainties of their relative performance with respect to the car.

      Also Redbull don’t want someone who can match Ricciardo, they want someone who does to him what he’s done to Vettel, proof the academy works.

      It’s extreme Darwinism. Vergne may be a better driver than half the grid, unfortunately that’s not enough for Redbull.

      1. Personally, I think Red Bull want a clear #1 in the team next year.

    15. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
      5th October 2014, 2:18

      I think this could turn out to be a mistake for Red Bull. Think Kyvat needed another year or 2 are Toro Rosso. Should of got Hulkenburg, probably too scared that the Hulk would of beaten Ric and been the first Red Bull driver to win the F1 title without being in their junior programme.

    16. Perhaps Red Bull are relieved at this development.

    17. “Carlos Sainz Jnr might have felt a bit put out when he was ‘leapfrogged’ by Kvyat for a place at Toro Rosso last year.”
      da Costa was leapfrogged last year, Sainz wasn’t really in contention, he wasn’t in contention for too much good results neither in GP3 or FR3.5, and is even a bit younger than Kvyat. This year though he made a jump in performance, and that should earn him a place in the Toro Rosso, but I wouldn’t be 100% surprised if the GP Series champion got an F1 seat immediately once again – there was an interview on the Red Bull Motorsports website how bravely Lynn approached Marko, promising to win the Macau GP last year and he did, and his dominance is similar to that of Sainz, maybe even bigger in a seemingly closer field.

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