Photo: (c) Paulo Calisto/Red Bull Content Pool
The most famous of all the young driver programmes has announced its lineup for this year, with four newcomers to the team…
After former Red Bull Junior Sebastian Vettel wrapped up his second consecutive world title, he has been joined in Formula One by both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne who will race for Toro Rosso this year.
Two drivers remain in the programme for this year. The first of these is 17-year-old Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr, who won the Formula Renault NEC title and finished runner-up in the Eurocup in 2011. He will make the step up to British Formula Three this year and will hope to follow in the footsteps of former Red Bull Juniors Ricciardo, Vergne and Jaime Alguersuari, who all won the series in their debut season with the same Carlin team.
The other driver staying on will be 17-year-old Russian Daniil Kvyat, who finished second and third in the NEC and Eurocup respectively last year. He will remain in the Eurocup this year with the Koiranen team, where he begins as the pre-season favourite.
The first of the new recruits is 22-year-old Scotsman Lewis Williamson, who joins the programme formally after enjoying support from the energy drink brand last year where he raced in GP3, getting the chance to do simulator work for Red Bull Racing. He also contested two Formula Renault 3.5 rounds in place of Ricciardo, and will step up to the series full-time this year with the Arden team.
16-year-old German Stefan Wackerbauer joins the programme after winning the inaugural Formula BMW Talent Cup last year. He picked up Red Bull backing along the way, leading to comparisons with former FBMW champion Vettel. Although he won a fully-paid drive in the German F3 Cup for his title, Red Bull will instead place him in the Formula Renault Eurocup.
15-year-old Briton Alex Albon makes the step up to car racing this year and will do so with Red Bull after enjoying their support throughout his karting career. In 2010 he was World and European champion in the KF3 category, and last year he was runner-up in the World Championships at KF1 level. He will race in the Formula Renault Eurocup for the Epic Racing team.
The final member is 15-year-old Callan O’Keeffe, three months Albon’s junior and therefore the youngest of the sextet. Born in South Africa, he won the British karting championship last year and was also runner-up in the KF3 World Cup. He will race in the Formula BMW Talent Cup this year. He contested the shootout at Valencia in November, but missed out on a fully-funded place to Tristan Viidas.
The four new drivers were selected following a test at Estoril at the beginning of last November. Pictured above are Albon (l) and O’Keeffe (r) together with Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko.