As Red Bull searches for the star to rekindle the spark for their junior team, Helmut Marko is keeping a close eye on Isack Hadjar.
Red Bull has arguably the most productive junior setup Formula 1 has to offer, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo all graduated from the main team, with Verstappen and Vettel between them winning six Drivers’ titles in Red Bull colours. , four for Vettel and two for Verstappen, so far.
But Red Bull is currently going through a barren period when it comes to bringing its junior team drivers into Formula 1, Yuki Tsunoda the most recent graduate as he linked up with sister team AlphaTauri ahead of the 2021 campaign.
Marko, however, has high hopes for Hadjar, the 18-year-old Frenchman whom he dubs ‘little Prost’ due to his resemblance to Alain Prost in Marko’s eyes.
Hadjar, in his first season with Red Bull backing, won three races during his rookie campaign in Formula 3, finishing P4 in the 2022 standings.
And it is from him that Marko can consider becoming a star of the Red Bull program.
There was an opening for the 2023 campaign at AlphaTauri, but last season’s Red Bull Formula 2 stars Liam Lawson, Ayumu Iwasa, Jehan Daruvala, Dennis Hauger and Juri Vips failed to qualify .
Lawson was the top-ranked of that group, finishing the P3 season in the standings with four race wins for the year, and is set to travel to Japan in 2023 to compete in Super Formula.
Ask by Auto Motor and Sport Assessing the current hopes of the Red Bull Junior Team, Marko said: “First of all the Frenchman Isack Hadjar, whom I call the little Prost because he looks like the big one.
“Then we have Zane Maloney, a talent from Barbados, and Enzo Fittipaldi [both new recruits]. They will drive for us in Formula 2 and will have to prove themselves there.
“The key is to be constantly up front there. Our Liam Lawson wasn’t there sometimes. In the end he still delivered good races. Then we had Jüri Vips, who once said the wrong word and ended after that. Which is certainly not fair either. As a 21-year-old boy, you can say something stupid.
“Sebastian Montoya is still driving for us in Formula 3. So we have a broad base. But if, like this year, no top driver shows up, then we look around him on the external market. And that’s where we have arrived [Nyck] de Vries. Ultimately we need riders who have the potential to win a Grand Prix at some point. And we didn’t have that.
Verstappen is the most eccentric of former Red Bull graduates, being just 17 when he made his debut for Toro Rosso, before being promoted to the Red Bull team just over a year later. winning the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix on his debut.
When asked if he sees another Verstappen-esque junior on the rise, Marko simply replied, “No.”
The next Max Verstappen may be at Alpine or Mercedes, not at Red Bull
It is always extremely difficult to predict how a junior driver’s record will set him up for potential Formula 1 success. always to have a lasting impact after his.
There are several young talents putting on dazzling displays in the junior categories, but a couple really caught the eye. The first is Nikola Tsolov, alpine hope supported by Fernando Alonso.
Born on December 21, 2006, Tsolov won the 2022 Spanish Formula 4 title at the age of 15. A total of 21 races made up this rookie season, and he won 13 of them with Campos. This included an eight-game winning streak. He has only finished outside the podium places three times.
Meanwhile, in the 2022 Italian Formula 4 Championship, 16-year-old Mercedes-backed Andrea Kimi Antonelli topped his rookie season with 13 wins from 20 races entered.
He also won the ADAC Formula 4 title with nine wins from 15 races, finishing outside the top two just three times.
The key will of course be whether these prospects maintain such good shape as they move up the ranks, but such performances are certainly telling.
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