Red Bull’s junior programme has long been labelled as a ruthless scheme that spits drivers back out on their own feet if they fail to log results fast. But it has been successful in introducing many drivers to F1 – and for 2024, there are a number of proteges that could make the step.
Red Bull has backed ample drivers in its existence, and its impact on the junior formulae is as obvious as ever this year, with six drivers present in the FIA Formula 2 Championship.
Of those, half are rookies while the others boast more experience in the category that’s seen as the final step before moving to F1.
AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s sister squad that’s seen as a nurturing ground for potential drives at the front-running F1 squad, is fielding Yuki Tsunoda for a third season this year, alongside rookie Nyck de Vries.
Both will be looking over their shoulders at the current crop of Red Bull juniors looking to steal their seats and obtain their own chance to shine in F1.
But which juniors are most likely to make the leap into F1 in 2024, should a seat open up?
Hadjar impressed during his rookie Formula 3 campaign last year for Hitech Grand Prix, taking three wins and a further two podiums across the campaign. The Frenchman was also praised publicly by Dr Helmut Marko, who oversees Red Bull’s junior programme.
Hadjar’s title hopes ended with a disappointing crash into the Monza barriers during qualifying, but the incident didn’t take away from his concrete performances throughout the year that earned him a well-deserved promotion to the F2 grid this year with the British team.
At 18 years of age, there is still plenty of room for Hadjar to grow – but the added experience of a season in F2 could shape him into an F1-ready driver and see him propel to the grid for the 2024 campaign.
Maloney made a lasting impression on the F3 grid last year – especially towards the end of the campaign. Having shown flashes of speed in the early stages of the season, it was during the final rounds when the Barbadian driver showed his prowess.
Taking victory at the final three Feature Races of the season allowed him to contend for the title late on, as well as earn a seat in F2 for the final round in Abu Dhabi with Trident. A British F4 Champion, Maloney has been named as one of Red Bull’s reserves for the 2022 season – an indication of how highly he is regarded within the organisation.
His late-season form in F3 will serve as strong motivation for the year ahead and give him the confidence to perform well in F2 – where the stakes will be much higher given it may decide if he will have a future in F1.
Perhaps the surprise of the 2022 F2 season was Enzo Fittipaldi, who blossomed in a Charouz Racing System team that, when compared to rivals, had no business competing for race victories and podium finishes.
His form across the year boosts his prospects for the upcoming season, which he will compete with Carlin, who narrowly missed out on the Teams’ Championship last year. With a year in F2 already under his belt, he will have that advantage over some of his Red Bull counterparts as he looks to become the latest member of the Fittipaldi family to venture into F1.
The Brazilian will also be competing directly alongside Maloney, who will join him at the Carlin squad for the upcoming year.
There was much anticipation for Hauger’s F2 debut last year following on from his title-winning 2021 campaign in F3. Progressing with Prema, Hauger’s season was full of disappointments as he just about classified in the top 10.
Nevertheless, there were race wins and podium results to cheer over, and for the upcoming campaign, Hauger has made the switch to MP Motorsport – the reigning Teams’ Champions who also delivered Felipe Drugovich to the Drivers’ title last year.
The new environment will provide Hauger with a chance to rekindle his F1 prospects, having once been viewed as a leading candidate for a future drive with the AlphaTauri team.
Red Bull is not short of potential candidates and talent in their line-up. Shipped to Japan for the upcoming year is Liam Lawson, who was snubbed by AlphaTauri for 2023 when Pierre Gasly departed. However, if the New Zealand driver can compete in the fast-paced Japanese Super Formula category, then he may be back within a shot.
Two other Red Bull juniors will race in F2 this year – Ayumu Iwasa, who had a number of strong outings in the series last year. Should the Japanese driver continue to grow, he could be looked at as a potential option. Jak Crawford will also be on the F2 grid for the year ahead, and will be looking for a more uplifting campaign this time around following a disappointing 2022 F3 season with Prema.
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