Brown: Red Bull ‘ruined a few great drivers’

Michelle Foster
Pato O'Ward in the McLaren garage at the end-of-season test. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

Pato O'Ward looking wistful in the McLaren garage at the end-of-season test. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

Zak Brown says Red Bull have been a “bit brutal” on their junior drivers, from Pierre Gasly to McLaren’s IndyCar star Pato O’Ward.

Although Red Bull’s junior programme brought the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen into Formula 1, both winning Drivers’ Championships with the senior team, they – along with Daniel Ricciardo – are the exceptions in having long-term careers with the team.

For the most part Red Bull have done a two-year deal with the new entrants, drivers given that time to impress with Toro Rosso before either being dropped or making it to Red Bull.

But even a move to the latter doesn’t guarantee longevity, just ask Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon.

According to Brown it is not just Red Bull’s Formula 1 programme that can be brutal, their junior programme has also “ruined a few” drivers.

One of those who managed to rise above is McLaren’s IndyCar driver O’Ward.

The Mexican driver, having dominated the 2018 Indy Lights series with Andretti Autosport, was snapped up by Red Bull, competing in two races in Formula 2 and three in Super Formula.

But with the FIA announcing that the super licence points he scored in 2018 in Indy Lights would not be enough to put him on the 2020 F1 grid, he was dropped.

“He definitely slipped through the cracks,” Brown said about O’Ward’s time at Red Bull, as quoted by The Race.

“I think Red Bull, while he was there, they only gave him about three races [in junior categories]. But if you look at Red Bull’s history other than Max, they have let a handful of great drivers slip through their hands.

“I think they’ve ruined a few that I think had it, but weren’t given enough opportunity.

“But,” he added, ” they won the championship last year, we didn’t, so I can’t say they don’t know what they’re doing.

“But they’re a bit brutal. Carlos is a great example. Daniel had already proven how good he was but he chose to leave.

“Vettel left. Max is a great story and someone that they found. Albon, Gasly. Gasly looks like a hell of a driver.

“They move through a lot of drivers.”

McLaren snapped up O’Ward for the 2020 IndyCar series, the driver finishing P4 and P3 in his first two seasons with the team. He continues with the Arrow McLaren team this season.


But while Brown reckons Red Bull was brutal to the Mexican driver, O’Ward said at the time that while he learned that “racing not always a nice sport and I’m very grateful to Red Bull for the opportunity.

“It showed me the calibre of person that Dr. Marko is and why he has so much success.

“Huge respect for him and the whole team. He cared about my future, that means a lot. Things didn’t turn out like we expected, but he was concerned about my future, and that is very cool.”


PlanetF1 Verdict


Brown critical of Red Bull driver program

Zak Brown Brown criticises the Red Bull driver programme.