Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko believes the energy drink company’s junior programme is still the best in the business, despite a recent lack of talent promoted to F1.
Since Max Verstappen stepped into the limelight in 2014 with Toro Rosso, the only young Red Bull-supported driver to reach the pinnacle of motorsport has been Pierre Gasly.
Alex Albon, Daniil Kvyat and Brendon Hartley were all reinstated as Red Bull drivers after dropping out of Marko’s development programme, while the likes of Charles Leclerc, George Russell of Lando Norris were never scooped up by Marko.
The Austrian recently denied that Red Bull’s talent pool had dried and now insists that the energy drink’s ladder remains the best pipeline to F1 in the business.
“I would say, without any arrogance – the boys, if they have a choice, they’ll try to get with Red Bull first,” Marko told Motorsport.com.
“But we have our principles, and we don’t walk away from them. This decade, what we have experienced – everyone now has a lawyer they bring along.
“Some want one more comma [in the contract], this and that.
“We say – we have our system, it works. We are not prepared to compromise, and these are fair contracts [we offer].”
Scouting young drivers in the junior ranks is a difficult exercise, and Red Bull’s bets on burgeoning talents aren’t as widespread as they used to be.
“In the junior categories, we’re moving away from [recruiting in] karting,” Marko admitted.
“It’s so difficult. In karting you have tyres, engines, chassis, that are always changing, but which have such an impact on performance. And we’re dealing with 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds.
“There are examples – we had Oli Oakes, who was world champion in karting and nowhere in formula cars.
“He now runs [top junior single-seater team] Hitech, with which we work well together.”