Scuderia Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is seen by Helmut Marko to be the biggest talent to have not been signed by the Red Bull Junior Team.
Marko heads up the driver academy with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and it has seen a lot of drivers go through it into Formula 1, including the likes of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr, who now drives from McLaren F1 Team.
The junior team has come under fire because of the speed in which drivers are often getting taken out the programme, meaning the likes of Brendon Hartley and Daniil Kvyat had to be recalled.
But Marko explained that he felt his team is one of the best for being a junior academy. He commented that he felt it was the team that young drivers wanted to get into. He was asked about talents that they had not signed, and he pointed to Ferrari driver Leclerc.
Leclerc remained unsigned up until 2016 when he joined the Ferrari Driver Academy, and Marko explained he was the biggest miss for the team.
Marko spoke to Motorsport.com and said: “Leclerc. It’s quite clear, Leclerc.”
“I would say, without any arrogance – the boys, if they have a choice, they’ll try to get with Red Bull first. But we have our principles, and we don’t walk away from them. This decade, what we have experienced – everyone now has a lawyer they bring along. Some want one more comma [in the contract], this and that.“
Marko explained that he felt the programme which Red Bull is running is a good system and commented that he feels they will not move from it. There was also mention of the process itself, saying they are moving away to different places, regarding where they recruit.
“We say – we have our system, it works,” said Marko. We are not prepared to compromise, and these are fair contracts [we offer].
“And in the junior categories, we’re moving away from [recruiting in] karting. It’s so difficult. In karting, you have tyres, engines, chassis, that are always changing, but which have such an impact on performance.“
He touched upon who they are dealing with now and how it is working well, with Red Bull supporting them through the categories.
“And we’re dealing with 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds. There are examples – we had Oli Oakes, who was world champion in karting and nowhere in formula cars. He now runs [top junior single-seater team] Hitech, with which we work well together.”