Williams planning major revamp of junior driver programme

2021 F1 season

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Williams CEO and team principal and Jost Capito is planning a shake-up of its young driver programme, saying it needs a “serious and proper” scheme to promote new talent.

The team, which was purchased by Dorilton Capital last year, retained much of its previous young driver line-up for the 2021 campaign. However following the confirmation of George Russell’s move to Mercedes at the end of the season, Capito said changes are coming.

“We’ll have to restructure and review our junior programme because I want to improve it and want to make it a real junior programme,” said Capito.

“This discussion is just starting and kicking off. But I think for the future, we must have a serious and a proper junior programme.”

The team’s official reserve driver is Formula 2 race-winner Jack Aitken, who made his grand prix debut last season as a substitute for Russell in the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Williams also has another F2 racer on its books, Roy Nissany, who was the first to drive the team’s FW43B chassis in pre-season testing. He has also made six appearances in first practice sessions for the team over the past two years.

Last month the team parted ways with the third F2 driver in its young talent scheme, Dan Ticktum, who had joined them at the end of 2019.

Drivers with 2022 F1 car model, Silverstone, 2021
Guide: 2022 F1 drivers and teams
Williams also retains the services of W Series champion Jamie Chadwick as a development driver.

Alexander Albon has been hired as Russell’s replacement for next season alongside Nicholas Latifi. While Albon retains a connection to Red Bull, Capito said he could emulate Russell in remaining at Williams for the medium to long term.

“In the moment I wouldn’t see the reason why not and it would be nice if it would turn out like this,” he said. “But in racing you never know, a lot of things can happen.

“But that was part of our choice, was somebody who we can build the team with and already still has experience with a young age.

“He has fantastic experience. He went through a lot, he had his ups and downs, both make him very mature as a driver. And he is from the age that he has, I think, the best still to come. And that was one of the major decision points.”

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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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17 comments on “Williams planning major revamp of junior driver programme”

  1. They had one?

  2. Oh great more junior drivers without proper seats.

  3. Do they really need one? Then again do any of them really need a junior programme? There’s barely enough seats to go around anyway.

    1. Exactly. Those junior programmes are not only silly and futile, but harm the young talent and F1 itself as well.

      If an F1 team wants to hire a rookie – every single driver in the world would want to be hired, young or experienced. But there’s at most 1 or 2 seats for a rookie every single year in F1 – if that! Very often there is none.
      And with those junior programmes, young prospects get entagled in long-term contracts with teams and their sponsors without actually competing in F1, which block them from possibly driving for other teams/brands – in and outside of F1 – if an opportunity arises and block their spots for other young drivers as well.
      This ordeal only makes the whole thing more congested and static.

      1. I don’t think there’s ever been an F1 season in which no rookies have taken part. Though we could get one in 2022, depending on who gets the second Alfa seat.

      2. yes but if there were no junior programmes , Russel wouldn’t have had a shot at the Mercedes seat, same with Leclerc and Hamilton off the top of my head. i don’t think Formula 1 is like soccer – where you can go on the market and see what’s available. you can’t just shop around for F1 drivers. at least that’s my take on it

        1. “Russel wouldn’t have had a shot at the Mercedes seat”
          – Why wouldn’t he?
          And why do you assume he’s the only driver in existence to have to have that shot in the first place?
          And he isn’t a rookie anyway, so he isn’t relevant for the conversation anyway.

  4. Maybe he means proper drivers instead of pay drivers

  5. And then there’s the Red Bull programme, responsible for wrecking more potential careers than any other that I can think of, mind you I’m old enough to remember when the original Team Lotus had Rene Arnoux, Jim Crawford and Brian Henton stacked up behind regular drivers Ronnie Peterson and Jackie Ickx in 1975!

    1. Red Bull brought more of the current F1 drivers to F1 than any other team; 6 out of 20 now, 7 next year.

      1. Agree with this, red bull give them chances, if they throw them away it’s not on red bull management, what the other person is saying is equivalent to saying a teacher destroys a student’s career for not letting him pass a year when his marks were insufficient.

  6. Need I to remind that teams are going to be forced to field young drivers in practice sessions.

  7. I don’t understand why anyone would want a junior program. You just end up getting stuck with loyalty to someone who you might not really want.

    Maybe just for the promotional value?

  8. Smart, and I don’t understand the derision. Getting and developing the best young drivers is one of the keys to world championships. Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Russell, Norris… All the products of young driver programmes. Sure you can get lucky and grab them at a second opportunity, but its a crap shoot as to whether the reflexes are gone and the best days are behind them, or whether you’ll be paying top dollar by then…

    Sure there’s not enough spots on the grid for every young driver, but you want to give them to the best ones that you’re near certain will be able to deliver.

    1. Leclerc also comes from the ferrari junior program and I’d say he’s at least as good as any of them.

  9. Its not much good having a junior driver programme if, when the junior comes good, you have nowhere to put them unless they have a shed load of money. Hopefully, with proper funding, Williams can develop younger drivers with non-billionaire fathers. Red Bull, for all their faults, do this and it has had a lot of success.

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