F1 teams’ junior teams

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    There are at least four F1 teams with a dedicated programme for the development of young up-and-coming drivers.
    Red Bull Junior Team:
    Antonio Felix da Costa(POR, b.1991): Formula Renault 3.5
    Carlos Sainz, Jr(ESP, b.1994): GP3 series
    Daniil Kvyat(RUS, b. 1994): GP3 series
    Tom Blomqvist(GBR, b. 1993): FIA European F3
    Callan O’Keefe(RSA, b. 1996): ADAC Formel Masters
    Beitske Visser(NED, b. 1995): ADAC Formel Masters

    Ferrari Driver Academy:
    Jules Bianchi(FRA, b.1989): Formula One
    Raffaele Marciello(ITA, b.1994): FIA European F3
    Antonio Fuoco(ITA, b. 1996): Formula Renault 2.0 Alps
    Lance Stroll(CAN, b.1998): karting

    McLaren Young Drivers’ Programme:
    Kevin Magnussen(DEN, b. 1992): Formula Renault 3.5
    Stoffel Vandoorne(BEL, b. 1992): Formula Renault 3.5
    Nyck de Vries(NED, b.1995): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0

    Lotus Junior Team:
    Marco Sorensen(DEN, b.1990): Formula Renault 3.5
    Marlon Stockinger(PHL, b.1991): Formula Renault 3.5
    Alex Fontana(SUI, b.1992): GP3 series
    Esteban Ocon(FRA, b.1996): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
    Oscar Tunjo( COL, b.1996): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
    Alex Albon(THL, b.1996): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
    Dorian Boccolacci(FRA, b.1998): karting

    Do you think these choices are good? Or can they be improved?


    Pierre Gasly has joined the Red Bull Junior Team. The 17-year-old Frenchman won the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship this year. He has already confirmed his participation in Formula Renault 3.5 next year, though it’s yet to be announced which team he will be with.
    As already announced before, Red Bull’s 2013 ADAC Formel Masters duo of Beitske Visser and Callan O’Keefe are no longer members of the Junior Team.

    Iestyn Davies

    It makes sense for Gasly to join the RB Junior team. Considering Vergne is likely to have just one more year left at RB, he could actually find himself in Kvyat’s position this time next year, if the contends for the FR3.5 title and beats Sainz Jr convincingly. Else he is still young and can wait another year or two for Kvyat to graduate (I’m thinking to Red Bull, as a replacement for Vettel should he move to Ferrari, or if Ricciardo is worse than these other two). Trimming the rest of the RB junior team seems to indicate that they do not have any further plans once Sainz Jr and Gasly graduate into F1… just yet… but for now they are gradually cutting down quantity to end up with quality..

    Ferrari’s line up looks strong, and they could easily make a team in future of the best two outlined there, or the best one combined with a WDC. McLaren’s one is similarly strong, although I’m surprised they trimmed off any competition for Nyck de Vries – such as Oliver Rowland, Jack Harvey or Jake Dennis. They could always look at Seb Morris among F4 graduates. But perhaps they have compared all these drivers (along with the annual McLaren Autosport award winner each year as well) and have come to the conclusion that Magnussen and Vandoorne can graduate, then de Vries can try and join when he’s ready for F1. Him and Max Verstappen have to be the best catches in that now 16-18 age group, along with Gasly. So it’s quality over quantity for these two prestigious marques.

    Lotus and Gravity do a bit more of a wide net, perhaps trying to fund their program through this. They have RB reject Albon, Tom Pryce tribute helmet wearing Fontana (could do well next year in GP3), highly rated Ocon and Tunjo, while Sorensen and Stockinger have been in FR 3.5 for a few years now. Richie Stanaway recovered from his injuries and moved into Porsche Supercup, he did look promising before his back injury. You could also include the Caterham junior team, so far of Alexander Rossi (GP2), Will Stevens (FR3.5), Matt Parry, Weiron Tan (FR2.0), so they have a few promising guys as well. Not sure if Sergio Canamasas or Aurelien Panis are still connected with the program.

    There’s a good stream of youngsters coming through from New Zealand, including Mitch Evans (protege of Mark Webber), but Nick Cassidy doesn’t have much backing, so I would be tempted to pick him up and see how he goes in FIA F3 or a national series. Alex Lynn (British F3 champion) also doesn’t seem to be mentioned with any junior teams, and Lucas Auer should be a shoe-in for a RB Junior Team slot (Austrian, and Gerhard Berger’s nephew). Those two were the main competition for Marciello and Rosenqvist last year in FIA F3. I imagine Jordan King is probably funding his own way up the ladder and doesn’t need a junior team. Him and Harry Tincknell were also the main FIA F3 next level, along with Blomqvist for RB.

    Mercedes always talk about their junior team, but it seems to be simply the guys in DTM for them (Wickens, Vietoris, Juncadella and Merhi), with only Juncadella actually getting some F1 YDT time with Williams. I would try-out Wickens and Vietoris first, as they have done well in the championship this year and are ready for an F1 YDT shot (first one I think for Vietoris, Wickens had some a few years back). When Juncadella and Merhi mature in the DTM and finish in the top handful, then they will be ready for an F1 YDT shot. Guys like Albuquerque and Mortara went through graduation phase this last year or the year before.


    Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t Albon a Red Bull driver at one point but they dropped him? And now Lotus have picked him up? Curious.

    Iestyn Davies

    Yes, this is true. Peculiar really to pick up a dropped driver, but Albon is half Thai so this is why RB picked him up I’m pretty sure. I think he was more successful in karting than his transfer to single seaters has been so far. Perhaps Lotus are trying to cash in on this experience he gained being part of the RB junior setup, or perhaps Albon is simply well backed, I don’t know. Doing better in karting than single-seaters could always lead to the suspicion of this.

    Iestyn Davies

    Matt Parry, driver in the Caterham young drivers program, wins the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award for 2013. This nets him £100,000 towards his junior ladder development, along with an F1 test with McLaren sometime in the near future (maybe after this year in Eurocup F. Renault), and an Arai helmet.

    Interesting to note that previous winners include Jenson Button, Gary Paffett, Anthony Davidson (1998-2000), along with Paul di Resta (2004) (guessing Hamilton was ineligible, already linked to McLaren’s junior program). So, McLaren have hired the first two, and Davidson works for Mercedes now, but despite knowing Paul di Resta, from having tested him before his Euro F3 win over Vettel (2006), they still didn’t pick him up for 2013 over Sergio Perez (and somewhat bizarrely, Nico Hulkenberg). Perhaps Checo’s rumoured $10m Telmex sponsorship backing was a persuading factor, now that McLaren have to pay for engines for two years..


    Alex Lynn, the winner of this year’s Macau GP, and the ‘best of the rest’ in the European F3 season behind Marciello and Rosenqvist, has joined the Red Bull Junior Team.
    Read more here.

    Iestyn Davies

    Wow! Didn’t see that one coming! Thought it would be Auer. But, Wurz being his manager also makes sense. Maybe Auer has more time to develop (staying in F3 to probably take the title, before moving up to GP3/FR3.5), while Lynn needs to move on up the ladder as he has now gotten to 20 (how times change).

    So after Felix da Costa (22), Red Bull test/reserve driver, their 2014 order is now:
    Sainz Jr (19) FR3.5 – DAMS
    Lynn (20) GP3 – Carlin
    Gasly (17) FR3.5 – Arden
    Olsen (17) FR2.0 Eurocup (most likely)

    Blomqvist has effectively been dropped for Lynn, who replaced him as FR2.0 UK champion and beat him thoroughly this year in FIA F3, although I don’t know if team strength came into this at all. Lynn must be thinking that he could do a Kvyat, and win the GP3 championship and move straight into F1 with Toro Rosso, replacing an outgoing Vergne. Looks to me like a shootout between Sainz Jr and Lynn, but we can’t rule out Gasly, who is also in FR3.5, despite his young age (he would be the youngest F1 driver ever in 2015 at a fresh 19).

    Interestingly, the RB website also has Daniel Abt and Felipe Fraga alongside it’s F1 drivers and Junior team members – are these guys merely sponsored by Red Bull? I never noticed RB sponsorship on Abt’s cars. Fraga looks like he could be another Felipe Massa – very impressive karting record. Could be another addition to the junior team in time. Olsen already has RB simulator development work on his website.


    Abt and Fraga are only sponsored by the Red Bull companies of their respective nations I think.
    Funny thing, their new recruit, who will drive in GP3 next year, is a year older than Daniil Kvyat, who will make his F1 debut in 2014.


    Slightly off topic. But take a look at this nice video from Ferrari Driver Academy on ‘Special wishes from special youngsters’ featuring the four FDA drivers. http://formula1.ferrari.com/news/special-wishes-special-youngsters

    I must appreciate Jules Bianchi’s eagerness to be in a competitive car for next year. Note his answer to the question ‘What would you like Santa to give you?’.. ‘A good car for next year!!!’ (1:06) ;)

    I too really hope next year’s contender from Marussia is capable of sneaking into the top ten on a regular basis and at least compete with the lower midfield!


    I’m really hoping Lance Stroll turns out to be a strong driver. The only time I get to hear the Canadian anthem playing after an F1 race is if I replay the ’97 season races that I have stored away.

    I remember the articles appearing in local papers when he was signed to the Ferrari Drivers’ Academy, but it’s hard to tell at that age if they’ll excel in the feeder series, let alone F1.


    News from Caterham’s Racing Academy…Panis and Canamasas have been kicked, in comes Seb Morris, who finished 2nd in BRDC F4 last year..
    Morris’s confirmation
    Updated list of drivers in the academy

    Iestyn Davies

    @seahorse The only time we’ll see Bianchi in a competitive car (unless we go back to his Force India FP1 days) is probably at the wheel of the second Ferrari, unless he is pipped to that by someone like Hulkenberg or Vettel.

    Stroll did OK in the Ferrari Florida Academy, so we’ll have to see how he does when he moves up to single seaters.

    Morris could be a promising driver, he’s already been featured on Sky F1 meeting Schumi as a promising junior driver. It would be interesting to have another Welsh F1 driver..

    Ocon is really coming on strong so he looks like the standout on the Lotus list. If they had enough French backing they could run Grosjean, Pic and Ocon as reserve soon.. although I’m sure Vergne would be on that list too if ditched by RB, possibly for Pic.

    Caterham’s squad really looks strong now. Frijns/Rossi, Stevens, Parry, Morris, Tan, Hishamuddin are all title winners at different levels.


    Time to update this stuff for 2014:

    Red Bull Junior Team:
    Carlos Sainz, Jr(ESP, b.1994): Formula Renault 3.5 series
    Pierre Gasly (FRA, b. 1996): Formula Renault 3.5 series
    Alex Lynn (GBR, b.1993): GP3 series

    Ferrari Driver Academy:
    Jules Bianchi(FRA, b.1989): Formula One
    Raffaele Marciello(ITA, b.1994): GP2 series
    Antonio Fuoco(ITA, b. 1996): FIA European F3
    Lance Stroll(CAN, b.1998): Italian F4
    Guanyu Zhou (CHN, b. 1999): karting

    McLaren Young Drivers’ Programme:
    Stoffel Vandoorne(BEL, b. 1992): GP2 series
    Nyck de Vries(NED, b.1995): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault 2.0 Alps
    Ben Barnicoat (GBR, b.1996): Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, Formula Renault 2.0 Alps

    Lotus Junior Team:
    Marlon Stockinger(PHL, b.1991): Formula Renault 3.5
    Alex Fontana(SUI, b.1992): GP3 series
    Esteban Ocon(FRA, b.1996): FIA European F3
    Callan O’Keeffe (RSA, b. 1996): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault 2.0 NEC
    Alex Albon(THL, b.1996): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
    Gregor Ramsay (GBR, b. 1996): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
    Dorian Boccolacci(FRA, b.1998): French F4
    Juan Manuel Correa (ECU, b. 1999): karting

    Caterham Racing Academy:
    Alexander Rossi (US, b. 1991): GP2 series
    Will Stevens (GBR, b.1991): Formula Renault 3.5 series
    Matt Parry (GBR, b.1994): Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Fortec
    Seb Morris (GBR, b.1995): Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, Formula Renault 2.0 Alps
    Weiron Tan (MAL, b.1994): German F3
    Daim Hishamuddin (SIN, b.1998): Formula BMW Asia Cup series

    Marussia Young Driver Programme:
    Tio Ellinas (CYP, b.1992): GP2 series

    Iestyn Davies

    Gravity are also still running Marco Sorensen and Richie Stanaway in FR 3.5, GP3 etc. but they are not on the Lotus Junior team at the moment (despite running the colours in WSR). Now that Stanaway has recovered from his back injury, he looks on the pace once more in both series (and GT with Aston Martin).

    Marussia are still doing well to try and run Tio Ellinas whenever possible, which given their financial circumstances, can be at very short notice like in GP2. Hopefully Tio will get an F1 debut at the Silverstone test – they are courting Fabio Leimer to be their reserve driver if he can get some sponsorship together. Tio would be the first F1 team driver that won his place originally in a ‘TV talent contest’? A bit like GT academy, for the underfunded..

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