Red Bull missed an opportunity to sign Oscar Piastri its Formula 1 young driver programme, according to team boss Christian Horner, who admits it is “something that I regret”.
Piastri enjoyed a successful rise through the junior categories prior to being confirmed as a McLaren driver for his debut F1 season next year, winning back-to-back titles in F3 and F2.
While Piastri was supported by Alpine during his rise through the junior ranks, both parties were recently embroiled in a contract saga over Piastri’s future, which the team lost after being found to not have a valid deal in place for 2023.
Before joining Alpine’s academy in 2020, Piastri had driven for Arden in F4 and Formula Renault Eurocup – a team Horner co-founded in 1997 – but didn’t take up an option to put him in Red Bull’s junior fold.
Speaking about’s his regret at not going ahead with a deal on the Beyond the Grid podcast, Horner stressed had Piastri been a Red Bull junior driver he would have been locked into a contract – which proved a factor in his dispute with Alpine.
“He drove for the Arden team in Formula 4 and Formula Renault, and was obviously a significant talent,” said Horner.
“There was an opportunity for Red Bull to look at him at the time, and we didn’t take up that option, which is something that I regret. But what he went on to achieve is phenomenal, in Formula 3 and Formula 2.
“Now if he’d have been a driver here, there is no way that he wouldn’t have been under lock and key for a period in time. As I say, I wasn’t party, it’s difficult to judge what was promised or reneged on or so on.
“But certainly, it was unexpected, probably from several areas.”
Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri looks set to overlook the possibility of promoting a Red Bull junior driver to replace Pierre Gasly should his move to Alpine be agreed.
Horner previously stated it would only allow Gasly to be freed of his Red Bull ties if it could line up an “exciting driver” to take his seat, but its plans to sign IndyCar sensation Colton Herta fell through after his bid to granted exception for a superlicence was rejected by the FIA.
Nyck de Vries has now emerged as the lead candidate after he revealed he had held talks with Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko over the AlphaTauri seat.
But while Red Bull is likely to snub its junior drivers of an F1 promotion in 2023, Horner believes its programme is as strong as its ever been.
“We’re continuing to invest in youth, we’ve got some great youngsters in the programme, all the way from karting and stepping into Formula 4 now, upwards,” said Horner.
“I think it’s something Red Bull has done so well, giving these kids a chance, investing in young talent, and giving opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
“Isack Hadjar in Formula 3 this year has had a great debut season. I think [Ayumu] Iwasa in Formula 2 has been a standout driver for me. They’re just two of the guys on the programme.
“Liam Lawson has had a tough year, but he’s again another talent. Dennis Hauger has been a bit underwhelming in Formula 2 after such a dominant year in Formula 3. But again, how much of that is him and how much of it is equipment?”