In a mere fifteen years, Red Bull, the energy drink brand, has transformed from an unknown player in F1 to forging one of the most victorious teams ever. But how did they achieve it?
Let’s delve into their intriguing history and explore their renowned young driver program.
Red Bull’s Journey in F1
The energy drink brand Red Bull has long been renowned for employing highly innovative marketing strategies, closely associated with numerous extreme sports like skiing and skateboarding.
In Formula 1, their journey began back in 1989 with the signing of Gerhard Berger as their first racing driver.
By 1995, they had become the primary sponsor of the Sauber team. Then, in 2004, Dietrich Mateschitz took things to the next level by purchasing the Jaguar team and rebranding it as Red Bull, marking its debut in the 2005 season.
Mateschitz made a smart move when he brought on his friend Helmut Marko as an advisor and Christian Horner as the team manager.
Then, just a year later, they took things up a notch by purchasing the Minardi team. And that’s when they had a brilliant idea – they founded Toro Rosso in 2006, a second team specifically dedicated to nurturing young drivers.
Their grand plan was to invest heaps of cash in the sport and create a massive driver academy across various lower categories.
The idea was simple yet genius: these budding talents would get their shot in F1 with Toro Rosso, the “B team,” and if they excelled, they’d move up to the “A team,” Red Bull.
Red Bull wasted no time in tasting success, and interestingly enough, their first victory came through Toro Rosso in 2008.
But that didn’t stop Red Bull from making strides too. In 2009, they secured their first wins and podiums while Toro Rosso solidified its position in the middle of the pack.
Then, from 2010 onwards, Red Bull experienced its first golden era in Formula 1, all thanks to the incredible talent of Sebastian Vettel, their star driver.
He went on to claim a remarkable 4 consecutive drivers’ championships in a row along with 4 constructors’ championships for the team.
Vettel’s performance was simply mind-blowing, breaking numerous Formula 1 records for being one of the most exceptional drivers in the sport’s history.
Behind the enchantment, there stood the esteemed engineer, Adrian Newey, who had already tasted immense success in the 1990s with Williams and McLaren.
But then, in 2014, the hybrid era hit, and Mercedes took the F1 world by storm, leaving Red Bull and Ferrari lurking in the shadows for quite some time.
Yet, it was Red Bull that eventually shattered the Silver Arrows’ dominance when Max Verstappen claimed the title of world champion in 2021.
The performance of Mercedes and Red Bull was very similar that season, with Verstappen beating Hamilton after an epic end to the season.
This kicked off Red Bull’s second golden era in F1, with Verstappen dominating the 2022 season and clinching a second title.
Now, looking at the current state of affairs, it seems like 2023 is all set to become the third title for him and the team, given their absolute dominance.
It’s quite astounding to think that in a mere 18 years, Red Bull has amassed an impressive tally of 6 drivers’ championships and 5 constructors’ championships, making them one of the most successful teams in the illustrious history of Formula 1.
There are many factors behind the team’s success, and one of the most discussed has been its young driver program.
How Does the Red Bull Young Driver Program Work?
Red Bull was, together with Renault, the pioneer of young driver academies in Formula 1.
Today, training programs are indispensable in Formula 1, with all teams investing millions of euros in discovering the next super talent at an early age.
At Red Bull, as at all other teams, they have scouts at the highest levels of the European karting classes.
The most promising drivers are closely supervised and monitored, and if they impress, teams try to “capture” them as early as possible.
When a junior driver is offered a contract, they are often invited to the Formula 1 team’s factory for signing – a dream come true for the young driver, instantly adding sentimental value. From that moment on, the real training begins.
Red Bull trains its drivers to make them as competitive as can be, guiding them through the various categories leading up to Formula 1.
The energy drink brand foots the bill for the sky-high costs of competing in these competitions, and the young talents kick off their journey under the prestigious Red Bull name in the lower categories.
Inside the academy, the pressure is cranked up to the max, with only a handful of seats and a sea of talented drivers, so it’s all about delivering results to keep moving forward.
In this thrilling pursuit, the successful drivers climb through the ranks, from various regional championships to F3 and F2, until they finally hit the pinnacle of racing – Formula 1.
But let’s be real, only the cream of the crop, a tiny fraction, get to claim that honor. It’s a fierce race to the top! This is where Red Bull’s uniqueness shines.
While other teams like Ferrari or Mercedes usually have their young drivers debut in teams from the lower end of the grid like Williams or Alfa Romeo, Red Bull does things differently by giving their drivers a debut in their own second team, AlphaTauri (formerly Toro Rosso).
The brand’s goal is for these young talents to gain solid F1 experience with AlphaTauri for a few seasons.
If they prove their worth, they get the coveted promotion to Red Bull, where they’ll be in the fierce battle for wins and championships.
With this approach, both AlphaTauri drivers have to strive for that sought-after promotion, while Red Bull’s drivers need to keep their game tight, lest they get replaced.
It’s a high-stakes racing game of musical chairs!
Has Red Bull’s young driver program been a success or a failure?
Over the past few years there has been a lot of talk about Red Bull’s young driver program, widely criticized for its harshness on drivers, but has it been a success or a failure?
Since its inception, Red Bull’s young driver program has seen dozens of drivers come and go, with varying levels of success.
Sadly, for some, the rapid promotion proved to be a double-edged sword, causing their careers to hit roadblocks or suffer setbacks.
Every now and then, the team faced a dilemma, like in 2021 when they signed Sergio Pérez, driver of another team on the grid, indicating a shortage of young talent ready for the big leagues.
However, labelling the program a failure would be far from the truth.
Red Bull’s young driver program is like a gold mine for talent, and that’s precisely why it needs to be fiercely competitive – only the absolute best make it to the grand stage of F1.
Over the course of fifteen years, they’ve nurtured and honed remarkable talent, giving birth to two multiple world champions: Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.
Not only that, an impressive 7 out of the 20 drivers on the current grid either drive for or have been trained under Red Bull – that’s a remarkably high percentage!
Even beyond Formula 1, many of their former drivers continue to shine in other prestigious competitions like Formula E and many Endurance Championships.
Undoubtedly, Red Bull’s program stands out as the most successful of all to date.
And if there’s anything either professional or personal that we can all learn from it is that the long term game combined with a vision for success always pays off.