From ‘little Prost’ to De Vries, Marko reviews young drivers; Red Bull’s junior driver senior man compares Frenchman Isack Hadjar to ‘Alain Prost’, explains Nyck de Vries’ arrival at AlphaTauri but does not see a new Max Verstappen on the market at present
Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s advisor and head of young drivers, gives an update on the junior driver market and compares Isack Hadjar as the next Alain Prost.
Current Red Bull F1 drivers
Looking at the 2023 F1 grid, there are five drivers from Red Bull’s junior programme: Max Verstappen, of course, but also Carlos Sainz, who now drives for Ferrari, Pierre Gasly, who joins Alpine this season after several years with Red Bull, Alex Albon from Williams and Yuki Tsunoda, an AlphaTauri driver who is strongly supported by Honda.
Being part of Red Bull’s young drivers programme is almost a guarantee of a career in top-level motor sport so long as you can survive the chop. Just speak to Jean-Eric Verne.
In an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, Helmut Marko gave an overview of the current market for young drivers.
In 2023, the Austrian will be keeping a close eye on new faces in F2 such as Frenchman Isack Hadjar, whom he calls ‘the little Prost’ and who won three races on his F3 debut. Zane Maloney won the FIA rookie of the year title in 2022 and Enzo Fittipaldi was not far from the F3 title in 2021.
“First and foremost the Frenchman Isack Hadjar, who I call ‘Little Prost’ because he looks like the great one.
“Then we have Zane Maloney, a talent from Barbados, and Enzo Fittipaldi. They will be driving for us in Formula 2 and will have to prove themselves there.”
As for the members of the junior programme who were driving in F2 last year, New Zealander Liam Lawson will try his luck in SuperFormula in 2023 as Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly have done in the past.
Estonia’s Juri Vips, meanwhile, was excluded from the programme for making racist remarks in an online game during the 2022 season
“The key is to finish in front, which Liam Lawson didn’t always do, but in the end he had some good races,” Marko added.
“Then we had Jüri Vips, who had a bad word and therefore couldn’t continue. Which is certainly not fair either. When you are a 21-year-old boy, you sometimes say stupid things.”
“There is also Sebastian Montoya who is still driving for us in Formula 3. So we have a broad base. But if, like this year, no real leader comes along, we will also take a look at the market.”
“And that’s exactly where we found Nyck de Vries. At the end of the day we need drivers who have the potential to eventually win a Grand Prix. And our young drivers didn’t have that.”
The next Verstappen?
As a Formula 2 and Formula E champion, Nyck de Vries had been knocking on the door of Formula 1 for several years in vain.
At the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, the Williams team offered him the chance to drive as a replacement for incumbent Alex Albon and the Dutchman dazzled with his performance. He was then offered a starting driver position with the AlphaTauri team from the 2023 season.
Finally, when Helmut Marko was asked if he saw a new Verstappen somewhere on the market, his answer was terse: “No!”