Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has revealed that the team has missed the opportunity to sign promising youngster Oscar Piastri to the Formula 1 young drivers program.
After the 21-year-old Aussie gained attention for achieving consecutive title wins in Formula 3 and Formula 2, Horner labeled the missed opportunity “something I regret”.
Speaking of F1s Beyond the Grid podcast, Horner said it was “difficult” to discuss Piastri’s controversial signing with McLaren, but agreed that if he had been in Red Bull’s system – a move that could have happened – his place in the team would have been firmly secured .
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“He drove for Arden (the junior team founded by Horner) in Formula 4 and Formula Renault and was clearly a key talent,” he said.
“There was an opportunity at that point for Red Bull to look at him, and we didn’t take that option, something I regret. But what he’s achieved next has been phenomenal, in Formula 3 and Formula 2.” .
“Had he been a driver here, he would never have been locked up for a while. As I said, I wasn’t a party, it’s hard to judge what was promised or renounced on or so on.
“But sure, it was unexpected, probably from different areas.”
The Melburnian drove for Arden Motorsport in the British F4 Championships and Formula Renault Eurocup as a teenager before joining Renault’s driver development academy (now Alpine Academy) in early 2020.
According to Horner, the aftermath of Fernando Alonso’s move to Aston Martin caused “the ripple that spread across numerous seats,” including that of Red Bull’s sister team, AlphaTauri.
After losing the contract case to keep Piastri, there were reports that Alpine was planning to get hold of Pierre Gasly, but AlphaTauri will only release the Frenchman from his one-year contract extension if a replacement is already lined up, such as IndyCar driver Colton Herta.
But AlphaTauri’s plan to have Herta on the F1 grid next season hinges on the Andretti Autosport driver getting an exemption from the FIA for a mandatory super license, which has so far been denied.
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Test and reserve driver Nyck de Vries has also emerged as a candidate for the seat following his successful points finish in the place of Alex Albon at the Italian Grand Prix.
While Red Bull isn’t considering any of its existing young drivers for driving, Horner believes its program is still in good shape, in a similar move to Yuki Tsunoda being upped in 2021.
“We continue to invest in the youth, we have some great young people in the program, all the way from karting and now moving into Formula 4,” he said.
“I think it’s something that Red Bull has done so well, giving these kids a chance, investing in young talent and giving them opportunities that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“Isack Hadjar in Formula 3 has had a great debut season this year. I think [Ayumu] Iwasa in Formula 2 was a standout driver for me. They are just two of the guys on the program.
“Liam Lawson has had a difficult year but he is yet another talent. Dennis Hauger was a little disappointing in Formula 2 after such a dominant year in Formula 3. But again how much of that is he and how much of it is the equipment?”
But with 19-year-old rising star Jack Doohan also leaving the Red Bull Junior Team after five years in early 2022, could the UK-based team’s emerging talent dry up?
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