Home Featured The approach Pepe Marti is taking to being a Red Bull junior

The approach Pepe Marti is taking to being a Red Bull junior

by Alejandro Alonso Lopez

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

It’s never too late to become an F1 junior, but doing it the day before the last round of your season is certainly interesting timing. Pepe Marti spoke to Formula Scout all about being added to the Red Bull Junior Team

You were announced as a Red Bull Junior on Thursday, how much does this mean for you and your career?

It obviously means a lot. It’s been my objective and my target to be part of a Formula 1 academy for years now and to get picked up by the leading driver academy over the last decade is something that I only could have hoped for at the start of the season. I’m really, really proud myself, for the work that everybody has done behind the scenes, for me and for the team. I think everyone’s been a part to get where we are. We’ve done everything we had to and I’m proud of where we’ve been, where we are and obviously really, really thankful to Red Bull for the opportunity and the trust they’ve put in me to make me a junior already before the last round of the season, which is a big confidence boost for the last round. So really, really happy.

Considering how the path to F1 is now, how crucial is it for drivers to be in F1 academies, especially at the point you are, stepping up from FIA Formula 3 to Formula 2 in 2024, in order to have an actual chance of becoming an F1 driver one day?

I think massively. You need a F1 academy to be behind you, I think, both to help you look for a seat in F1 and to help you develop in your career to be ready for when that day comes if it does come. So for me, it’s a massive confidence boost. It’s a lot of work that I’ve put behind to get here. And obviously, I’m the same driver that I was at Spa-Francorchamps.

You mentioned earlier the fact that the deal was announced before the season end was a confidence boost. Normally Red Bull presents the junior line-up in full at the beginning of the year. Why were you announced that early?

I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t choose that. It’s up to Red Bull to say that. I only got told not too long ago that I was going to be announced. I got in contact the first time with [Red Bull Junior Team director] Dr Helmut Marko in Barcelona. But I only really knew the news much later on that I was going to be signed, and the announcement was actually quite straightforward.

Photo: Campos Racing

There was a brief, how can I call it, preview? Like ‘okay, it’s going to be done here’, but it wasn’t with too much time in-between. So it was quite a surprise for me. I was expecting it to be at the beginning of 2024. But to be announced at the end of the season, for me it shows that they trust what I’ve done throughout the season rather than just what the end result might be. I’m really happy and really thankful because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m going to try to make the most of it. It’s one step to my goal, which is F1.

There is always a lot of talk about the RBJT because of how hard they are with drivers. How are you facing that situation?

As a driver you always live with pressure. For example, I knew straight away that this was the year that would make it or break it for me. It’s a year that I knew I had to deliver. But I never really had that on my mind, I was just trying to focus on the next race and the next lap, so it was always a matter of keeping myself focused on the end goal rather than what the requirements that I needed [were]. That’s not going to change.

I think if Red Bull is hard on the drivers it’s because you’re expected to be at an F1 level when you step up to F1. So for that to happen, you have to be the very best in your discipline; you have to be the very most determined driver on the grid in F2 and you have to be the best of the F2 drivers to be ready for F1. That’s what they expect and it’s what they should expect of every driver willing to make the jump to F1. I think they’re the best junior team on the planet and to be a part of it is an opportunity I’m not willing to give up.

There is one more event for F3 teams: Macau. Thinking about doing that, and perhaps a farewell to Campos Racing there?

If I were to choose, I would love to race Macau. It’s a great track and I’d never been to a street track before this year. When we went to Australia, I really, really enjoyed it. Then we went to Monaco and I won there and I was one of the quickest on track. So I feel like I’ve got maybe too confident with walls for the first time! I really like street tracks. I feel like the adrenaline sense that they give you is far beyond what any common track will. So if I were to choose, I’d love to do Macau. But obviously it’s not on me, it’s not up to me to do it or not, so I can’t say anything.”

Photo: Red Bull Junior Team

What happened next

Marti arrived at Monza last weekend aiming to become FIA F3 championship runner-up, but ended up slipping from third to fifth in the standings as he retired from both races and had his first points-free round since Zandvoort last year. Campos also lost third place in the teams’ standings as they only scored eight points with their other two cars.

Although Marti raced with a new Red Bull-branded helmet, his car remained in Campos’s usual colours rather than taking on a Red Bull livery, and there were no targets set or commitments to meet with his new backers during the weekend as the work with them was to begin “when we get to Monday”.

Following his first meeting with Marko in the terrace of the Red Bull Energy Station after his feature race victory on home soil at Barcelona, Marti had another meeting at the Red Bull Ring, and after that one the direction of the negotiations became clear. He headed into the summer break knowing he would become a Red Bull junior, but learned the announcement would take place at Monza at much shorter notice, via a phone message.

The first time Marti is seen in full Red Bull gear could be November’s Macau Grand Prix, which doubles up as the FIA F3 World Cup, but of course that depends on if the 18-year-old Spaniard will be on the grid. We wait in anticipiation…