This topic / thread can be used to post news / updates about the (F1) Junior Academy programs. Or people can just post their opinions about those juniors (or their results) in this topic.
It is meant to give an overview of which (young) drivers are in which programs. Nowadays many / most drivers arrive in F1 via an Academy.
I will post the current Junior Academy rosters and it can be filled up later when anouncements are made for new members.
F1 TEAM ACADEMIES (the age of the drivers I mention is the age they have today)
RED BULL JUNIOR ACADEMY
Dennis HAUGER (Norway), 19, since 2018. Will stay in F2 in '23 but move from Prema to MP Motorsport. Hauger has underperformed seriously in '22, he was one of the dissapointments of the year in '22 in F2 after joining the best F2 team having won the '21 F3 title for them. But since he has a very strong CV (WSK Super Masters in Mini, German Jr & Sr karting champion, F4 & F3 title winner). he will stay at the Red Bull Academy.
He will become Red Bull & AlphaTauri reserve driver next year for the F1 races that overlap with Super Formula (were 3rd driver Lawson will drive) but he will have to perform next year. He can't afford another dissapointing season in F2.
Liam LAWSON (New Zealand), 20, since 2019 had a slightly underwhelming '22 F2 season because he wasn't able to challenge for the title (Drugovich was the dominating force in F2 this year) but he's been better as het gets credit for and still managed to jump to 3rd overall in the final race.
Lawson did win 4 F2 races in 2022 but all of them were sprint races with top 10 grid reversed. Helmut Marko still kept his confidence in him, citing that Lawson impressed during his F1 tests and did well in the simulator.
Should have won the DTM title in 2021 if it wasn't for the dirty games Audi and mainly Mercedes played in the final round.
He will be in Super Formula next year which is a tough formula since those Japanese drivers know every inch of the tracks they drive on. Risks getting leapfrogged by another Red Bull Junior if they manage to fight for the F2 title but a strong campaign could launch Lawson in a 2023 F1 seat, in particular if Tsunoda (or maybe de Vries) dissapoint.
Ayumu IWASA (Japan), 21 since 2021 Following in the footsteps of Yuki Tsunoda, Iwasa followed a similar path as Yuki jumping to F2 after just a single season in F3. He was mighty impressive at Le Castellet where he dominated the feature race. He seems more relaxed and focussed as Yuki. A strong F2 campaign in F2 could land him an F1 seat for '24.
Isack HADJAR (France) 18 since 2022 a product of the French federation FFSA, who are known for their expertise to train drivers, he has been a revelation 2 years in a row now. Will be at Hitech in F2 in '23 and a lot of eyes will be on him.
Jak CRAWFORD (USA) 17 since 2020 had a dissapointing F3 campaign since his Prema team mates Oliver Bearman & Arthur Leclerc beat him but he was far from bad. What was more problematic for him is that Hadjar also beat him in a lesser team. Still Crawford is a talented youngster so don't count him out yet. He will team up with Hadjar at Hitech in F2 in '23 so if the Frenchman beats him again that could damage his F1 prospects. But he's still very young, that's often forgotten. He will be just 18 in May '23.
Jehan DARUVALA (India) 24 since 2020. Daruvala is certainly a quality driver and underrated on this forum. But he hasn't been able to deliver the goods in F2. Not beiing able to mount a title challenge at Prema means he is probably out of the Red Bull program for 2023.
Jonny EDGAR (GB) 18 since 2018. He'll be 19 in Februari and will stay in F3 after a poor campaing at Trident (the second best team in F3). 12th overall as a title candidate really is not good but.... he missed 2 weekends and suffered from an illness that no doubt had an impact on his form at the end of '21 and in '22. He recovered quicker as expected from that illness and was very consistent in the final 3 weekends with 6 points finishes in a row but it most probably isn't enough to be retained in Red Bull's Academy. The latest rumours say he's likely out.
Ren SATO (Japan) 21 since 2022. As a Honda Junior he lost out to Iwasa for the French F4 title in 2020, Iwasa got promoted to Red Bull's Academy and Sato had to go back to Japan from Honda. There he managed to enter Super Formula with 3rd overall in Super Formula Lights and eventually also got added to Red Bull's program. Mainly because Red Bull wanted the promotion in Super Formula in Japan, not because they saw him as an F1 prospect. With Lawson moving to Super Formula next year the Red Bull sponsorship will move to his car (and to Team Mugen) meaning Sato is probably out of the Academy.
Sauto ARAO (Japan) 16 since 2022. Will turn 17 in December '22. He impressed me this year. Red Bull will no doubt have expected the title but that isn't really fair since he came straight from karting against several more experienced drivers. Hugh Barter was the dominating driver this year in French F4 but he already was vice-champion last year and combined that with Spanish F4 so he had vastly more experience, and Alessandro Giusto (who won the title because Barter couldn't count all his points because he also raced in Spain) was best rookie the year before.
Arao showed he has a lot of raw pace, and he scored a pole on just his 2nd weekend in cars.
It is unknown what he will be doing next year. I would certainly keep him in the Red Bull program but Honda may want to get him back to Japan, they could also place him in F. Regional. I hope they retain him. He had a strong rookie year in cars.
Yotu NOMURA (Japan) 17, since 2022. The other young Honda driver Red Bull had added. He wasn't as consistent as Arao but he showed raw speed as well winning two races. His lack of consistency meant that he was only 7th overall and 4th best rookie after Arao, Enzo Peugeot and Colombian Jeronimo Berrio. Honda will probably move him back to Japan. Despite showing promise he's unlikely to be retained. Arao clearly beat him.
Noel LEON (Mexico) 17 (18 in december), since 2022. I was surprised that Red Bull had added him. But Red Bull sometimes tries out a driver from a leftfield championship in the US. Leon won the Mexican & US F4 championships back to back. But if you realise that the level in US single seaters is a lot lower as in Europe that doesn't really mean much. Hunter Yeany won the US F4 title and was a distant backmarker in F3.
Leon was added to Red Bull's program after Sergio Perez tipped Marko on him. But Leon seriously underperformed in F. Regional this year. As I had expected actually because he came from the US scene and that is far less competitive. As a young driver it's important to always try to face the toughest competitors of your age because then you'll learn and get stronger imho.
Leon drowned in F. Regional this year frankly and that's understandable since he just came to Europe and then a driver needs a year to adapt. He is considering F3 currently but should really stay in F. Regional to continue his learning process, I think he will eventually stay in F. Regional. If he's smart he doesn't go to F3 yet, he isn't ready for it at all. I can't imagine him staying in the Red Bull Academy.
Arvid LINDBLAD (GB) 15, since 2021. Arguable the biggest talent in Red Bull's Junior program. Born in London and living in Surrey, he's from Swedish descent but drives under the British flag, he was born & raised in England after all. He's been an absolute megastar in karting. Part of what I call a 'golden generation' of karting with the likes of Antonelli, Camara, Tsolov, Taponen & Ugochukwu.
Lindblad can read a race like few can and attack at just the right moment. And he's an excellent overtaker, not too agressive but just right. Red Bull put him in KZ shifter karts this year, against much older full time pro's in what is essentially the F1 of karting. And he immediately diced with the very best and, like Antonelli the year before, he stunned the experienced drivers there.
He did do some F4 races after August, when he turned 15 (minimum age of F4) and was very quick in testing but Van Amersfoort lacked pace to Prema this year. During the final F4 weekend he was very fast but twice he missed his start. He will be a title candidate next year.
After initially signing up with Van Amersfoort, he tested for Prema recently.
It looks like Prema wants an F4 super team again by lining up Ugochukwu with Lindblad, Nakamura Berta, Wharton & Taponen.
Enzo FITTIPALDI (Brazil) 21, from 2023. Former Ferrari Academy member. He won the Italian F4 title for them but then lost out to Frederik Vesti in F. Regional. After a dissapointing rookie campaign in F3 Enzo was dumped by Ferrari. But that wasn't really that fair because he drove for HWA and actually did quite well for them with several points scores in what we know now was a poor single seaters team (in particular in F2 though).
Fittipaldi jumped halfway 2021 from F3 to F2 in what was a learning year. But this year he was a very consistent points scorer in F2 and Helmut Marko decided to add him because he (Marko's words): 'overperformed in a lesser team'.
That is true but I'm not convinced (yet) if Enzo is F1 material. He for sure is better as Pietro (Haas reserve driver) or Emmo Jr (in F4). Time will tell if he can prove that Marko was right to add him.
Helmut Marko said, when he anounced Enzo Fittipaldi, that more change is to come for the Red Bull Junior program with more drivers to be added as well.
I believe Daruvala, Edgar, Ren Sato, Leon & Nomura will be dropped. And Arao's future is unknown.
But who else could be added? Well I wish they would pick up Caio Collet & Hadrien David from the Alpine program because they're talented and are currently treated very badly by Alpine. But I don't think they will be picked up. Both are looking at sportscars now with Alpine refusing to invest more in their Academy, very sad.
Well in the rumours mill the name of Sebastian Montoya, son of Juan-Pablo Montoya, has been circling around as a Red Bull target. I believe that's mainly because Montoya became a Red Bull athlete half a year ago and some journalists believe that he will become a full Red Bull F1 Junior member. But what they fail to see is that the Red Bull athletes program is completely separate from the Red Bull F1 Junior program. Those two have nothing to do with each other, other people decide that.
So I'm not convinced he's going to be added but he might be since his famous last name is a marketing asset. And he has shown speed in F. Regional and on his F3 debut. Montoya is expected to move to F3 next year.
David Vidales is a name I would consider. He is flying a bit under most people's radar because when you drive at Campos in F3 you tend to be rather anonymous. But he is imho highly talented. He made his single seater debut quite late because of lack of money. The likes of de la Rosa & Campos managed to find a budget for him but he had to skip F4 because he already lost time, he was on pole during his car debut back in '20. He hasn't been able to show the stuff he showed in his debut year but his potential is big.
Franco Colapinto is another driver I like a lot in F3 and one worth considering for an F1 Academy. He was mighty impressive in LMP2.
Zane Maloney who moves to F2 with the vice-F3 title under his belt could also be a Red Bull target. Red Bull already has several drivers at F2 level but they also dropped Vips and may still drop Daruvala and they'll probably drop Edgar in F3 as well. Red Bull hasn't been shy to add a lot of drivers so not impossible that Maloney will join Fittipaldi as a Red Bull Junior. he's from the Bahamas and like Colapinto still just 19.
Taylor Barnard is the one I would advise Red Bull the most to sign up. Has had a tough start in F4 initially but due to no fault of his own. As a Nico Rosberg protégé he first ended up, end of '20 and in '21 at BWR. A new German F4 team where Nico Rosberg is said to be co-owner, in any case he certainly is heavily involved in that team. But that team turned out to be terrible. In 2021 they abandoned their campaign so they could be 'learning how F4 works'.....
In 2022 BWR even abandoned F4 after just 3 weekends, ruining the reputation of the very talented young Italian Sicilian Alfio Spina who may look bad if you look at his F4 stats but realise that he was at BWR and then at another terrible team. A bad team in F4 can already end your carreer there. Spina is also a driver to consider for an Academy imho. But Barnard is the real deal imho, he was competitive this year at another new team, PHM.
PHM is also a new German team and... they offer drivers in F4 a seat without asking money for it: they look for the money!
That's how it should be. An F4 seat costs around 250.000 euro these days (just 115.000 in F4 France though) so that's a bargain, in particular if you don't have major backing like Barnard. Despite Barnard beiing the best karting driver together with Mini before the Antonelli generation (Barnard actually still drove against Antonelli half a year).
Please sign him up Red Bull! This kid deserves backing. Don't know how much Nico Rosberg is still involved in managing his carreer (Nico was already Barnard's manager in karting), he managed his F4 start pretty bad in any case.
Barnard is expected to move to F3 with Jenzer next year together with his PHM F4 team mate Nikita Bedrin (who's also talented but I wouldn't touch a Russian driver with a finger as an Academy today. Even though Bedrin was born in Italy and races under Italian flag now). Jenzer isn't ideal though, the only driver who managed to impress at Jenzer was... Yuki Tsunoda!
Fernando Alonso was seen talking to Helmut Marko & Christian Horner in Brazil. Maybe they have an interest in Gabriel Bortoleto, a Brazilian driver Alonso is managing. Bortoleto is certainly pretty good but I would grab Caio Collet from Alpine if I were Red Bull if they want a Brazilian.
Alex Dunne (Ireland) & Hugh Barter (Australia with Japanese mother) are two interesting F4 drivers as well. Dunne will move to GB3, Barter probably to F3 with Campos. Dunne lost the shootout for a Ferrari Junior place to Tuuka Taponen last week. Maybe second chance at Red Bull?
Polish driver Tymoteusz Kucharczyk is a talent as well. But his main problem is that he competed against Nikola Tsolov. And Tsolov anihilated all oposition in Spanish F4. So although Kucharczyk drove very well, 3rd overall as a rookie in a 40 driver field. But Tsolov, who also was a rookie, won almost all races... Red Bull will probably think 'no he was trashed by Tsolov' but he might still be worth a look at, he's still pretty good.
From karting I would certainly look at Tomass Stolcermanis, Enzo Deligny, Freddie Slater, Nathan Tye, Evan Giltaire or Ean Eyckmans (was quick in a tiny independent outfit) or maybe James Egozi, who slightly dissapointed this year though, if they want another US driver.
I'll post my thoughts and the details of the other F1 Junior Academies tomorrow (or later).
Edited by William Hunt, 22 November 2022 - 11:59.