Formula 1 depends on new talent entering the sport each year, with rookies taking on the establishment for a shot at greatness. But in the era of limited testing, preparation is everything.
And the teams have long established their own academies to bring young drivers up to speed, in this most challenging of quests.
In the recent past, Red Bull’s Junior Team has been the gold standard for driver preparation and promotion with Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly among its star graduates.
Ferrari, and Mercedes learnt from this… and duly upped their respective games, in terms of spotting, recruiting and developing young talent.
Renault also has its own program dating back to 2002, the year after Red Bull. And in 2019, it has seven promising guns to manage.
Brazil’s Caio Collet joins Victor Martins in Formula Renault Eurocup, Max Fewtrell – winner of that series last year – moves up to Formula 3… along with Christian Lundgaard and new recruit Yi Yifei.
… while in Formula 2, Renault picked up Anthoine Hubert, who won the Monaco sprint race, and Guanyu Zhou, also on the podium. And the squad is put through its paces on a weekly basis.
SOUNDBITE (English) GUANYU ZHOU,
DEVELOPMENT DRIVER, RENAULT:
"I'm doing a lot of work like simulator work on track, off track as well. Getting to spend time in the F1 team debrief as well - to [get to] know everyone, to know how the situation, what it's like to be an F1 driver. It's something really helpful for my racing career."
And it’s helpful for both sides, the simulator now a vital development tool for team and driver… in F1’s limited testing era.
SOUNDBITE (English) PIERRE GENON,
HEAD OF PERFORMANCE SYSTEMS, RENAULT:
"Working with the technical team who is involved in the development of a car will prepare him for the technical aspects of being a Formula 1 driver and how to interact with the engineering team, which is quite big in a Formula 1 team.”
The drivers are also developed physically to prepare them for the violence of driving a modern F1 car at up to 360 kilometres per hour, and pulling up to 5G under braking and in corners.
… with their continued involvement in the program dependant upon their results in their junior series on-track, ensuring only the best make it to the top, for a shot at the main game.