Dr Helmut Marko has insisted Red Bull’s junior drivers are queuing up to take their place in the team – but none of them are ready yet.
That is why Sergio Perez has been hired to join Max Verstappen for 2021, with Alex Albon demoted to reserve status after his disappointing 2020 campaign.
Perez has signed an initial one-year deal and while he has the seat for the moment, his future will depend entirely on how he fares up against a strong benchmark provided by Verstappen.
There is no long-term certainty for either the Mexican or Albon in terms of remaining at the forefront of Red Bull’s plans – not with a host of emerging prodigies aiming to stake their claims for 2022 and beyond.
Leading the way among those is Yuki Tsunoda, who has been given his chance with Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri in 2021 after just a single season of F2 in which he won three races.
“It’s no shame to admit we haven’t brought two juniors into Formula 1 for the first time since 2010. We have one with Tsunoda,” said Marko, head of Red Bull’s driver development programme, during an interview with Motorsport-total.com.
“He is the first Japanese since [Kamui] Kobayashi in Formula 1 and at the same time the youngest Japanese ever to get into Formula 1. So we have a junior, but not two.
“Jüri Vips drove in Japan this year. He had a test, but otherwise he spent a lot of time in quarantine with the restricted travel regulations between Japan and Europe.
“Long story in a nutshell…we don’t have anyone for the cockpit at Red Bull Racing in order not to jeopardise our goal in the World Championship.”
But that does not change the long-term strategy, according to Marko. It is simply a case of giving the budding talents time to blossom.
“We have two top people in Jüri Vips and Liam Lawson,” added the 77-year-old Austrian.
“Also Jehan Daruvala, who won the last F2 race of the season. And we have a very strong American [Jak Crawford] who will be driving Formula 3 in 2021. Nobody else can match our success in promoting young talent.”
Marko also confirmed that 2020 had not been the first time Red Bull had weighed up Perez’s credentials with a view to bringing him into the fold.
“We once had a sighting with Perez,” he said. “It was a long, long time ago! In Estoril. [Daniel] Ricciardo was there too.
“In the long run he was as fast as Ricciardo. We did a kind of qualifying simulation over four laps and there was he a bit slower. That was shortly before he became a Ferrari Junior. So we have a certain history with him.”