Former Formula 1 driver Mark Webber believes that the Red Bull Racing have revised its approach towards their young driver’s programme over the years, using Brendon Hartley‘s surprise recall as an example.
The New Zealander made his F1 debut at the United States Grand Prix in October with sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso – seven years after initially leaving the programme. Hartley will continue to partner Pierre Gasly for the 2018 season.
And Webber, who spent seven seasons with Red Bull and three years as Hartley’s team-mate with the Porsche LMP1 Team, said that Red Bull contacted him searching for advice on the 28-year-old. The Australian said that the gesture showed that Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has mellowed over time.
“I think Red Bull softened a little bit,” said Webber, whilst talking to Motorsport.com.
“It’s not as maybe as intense as it was in the former years. Maybe this opportunity would not have come about”.
“You have to take your hat off to Helmut – he’s given him a second chance.”
“It is a different environment. It’s much calmer – which is I see only an upside.”
Last year, Hartley acknowledged that he wasn’t ready for Formula 1 in his first stint with the Red Bull programme – but believes that he has returned a more complete driver following a successful time in sportscar racing – one that has yielded two World Endurance Championship titles and one overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a viewpoint that Webber echoes.
“He openly says he wasn’t ready when he was younger,” the 41-year-old added.
“Some people mature, some people go early. There would be lots of Formula 1 drivers that would love to have a second bite of a cherry. Not many did. At all. But he did.”
Hartley replaced the free-falling Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso, who has now left the Red Bull programme for a development role with Scuderia Ferrari, less than two years after he had been racing for the Red Bull senior side.
Kvyat, a Formula Renault Alps and GP3 Series champion, showed promise in his junior career before a solid first season with Toro Rosso in 2014 – a year that ended with a promotion to Red Bull following Sebastian Vettel‘s move to Ferrari.
However, after just 23 races, Kvyat was demoted to Toro Rosso in favour of Max Verstappen. Webber said that not all drivers who have impressive junior careers are Formula 1 worthy.
“There’s been so many drivers who were unbelievable in the junior categories, but did not really fulfil their promise in Formula 1,” said the nine-times Grand Prix winner.
“In Formula 1 I think it’s a bit like a Michelin star restaurant, where as a chef you have to be an expert in many different dishes.”
“In the junior categories you don’t. You have to be an expert in one or two dishes.”
“But Formula 1 is like a very, very tough test for the driver envelope of operation and your ability to work with people.”