Interviews by Sergio Álvarez; header image and photos by Diego Merino.
Junior F1 drivers, they’re a bit like distant stars in another ‘modor racing’ galaxy: some shine brighter than the others to find their way into the top 1-3 in F2/F3. Then the Grandfather Clock universe decides to take a chance on them and they become Formula 1 leading lights, some will go on to win a few titles, maybe have a Vettel midlife crisis phase. Others, meanwhile, will become crusaders against social injustice and, to be honest, will paradoxically increase their natural speed with experience. The cosmos is calling!
We were lucky enough to have a quick e-chat with multiple Red Bull juniors battling it out in F3 and today it’s Doohan Jr’s turn to speak the truth. This combination already sounds amazing: Jr Doohan, Jr Red Bull, Jr Formula (3). Jr x 3, it’s the triple junior combo, innit.
We asked Jack about his relationship with Helmut The Marko and what targets would he be required to hit in order to continue to wear those blue-ish race overalls with two red (Lamborghini-sourced?) bulls. My bad: JD wears Trident liveried overalls in reality, red fake Lambo bulls appear only on his helmet. RBR have got so many YDs in progress that there’s not enough blue-ish overalls for them! Scandal.
Jack gave a typically measured Aussie response: “Um, I guess extract the potential from myself and my team and being in the title-contending position all year, wining races, podiums, poles.”
So with the steep learning curve last year done and dusted, can you start pushing the performance envelope in 2021 with Trident after a somewhat traumatic and painful season with HWA (in which he finished on Damon Hill’s most famous number in F1, 0 points; in short, suboptimal).
“You won’t find a car that’s 100% the same to another one on the grid.”Mick Schumacher
“Obviously, with this new format it’s going to be quite difficult for any one driver, I think, to break away. So (my job is) being there at the end of the season with the possibility to take the title.”
That’s the spirit and what a difference a year makes! JD is currently classified 5th in the standings on 21 points. The Trident F3 car goes good, although they’re supposed to be identical. But as Mick Schumacher told us last year, ‘you won’t find a car that’s 100% the same to another one on the grid’ and ‘you have to adapt, you have to see OK, how’s this car handling compared to the others and therefore readapt the set-ups’. Ja, jawohl, dis could be just the ticket for Jack because we saw him putting in some fantastic race performances in Spain.
Before we move to our next guest, let’s refresh our memories as to why junior drivers exist at all.
A long time ago in a DFV galaxy far away, a guy named Ken Tyrrell founded a racing team. Actually, he did so well before the DFV. So Ken was a cool cat and he won one with JYS, and another one, then struggled against the likes of Ron-speak Dennis, then decided it was time to sell the team to… Jr Villeneuve and Co. They kind of failed to achieve much, points scoring positions were different way back when. They fired Jacques and hired Takuma, soldiered on for a few more fruitless years. The financial crisis hit in 2008, and blah, blah, blah. I forgot to mention they had fired Takuma a couple of years prior to that and, to replace him, hired the most persistent driver of the 90s and 2000s, Rubens B. The team got renamed as Brawn and there you have it. Barrichello famously sets a chain of events at the Hungarian GP in 2009 – his Brawn loses a spring, it hits an innocent party, Massa. Massa can’t race in 2009 any more and Ferrari don’t have anybody in line to replace the passionate Brazilian. Come to think of it, it was destiny: a former Brazilian Ferrari driver shoots a suspension element into the path of yet another active Brazilian Ferrari driver. The Universe is a funny thing. Ferrari call on the ‘Slowfoot’ Badoer to replace Massa and, lo and behold, the Maranello test slave can’t get up to speed after a decade of absence from the race tracks. That kind of deal. What to do? Start a junior academy. This is what they did do. Voilà, now, unlike Luca Badoer, you’re up to speed if you’re 9 years old circa 2021, a nice little tidbit of useful information. Pretty neat.
Red Bull, they were smart. They had their own driver development program since day one. The Red Bull Junior Team has literally littered circuits around the world with their former and current drivers. In that sense, the expression ‘the runt of the Red Bull litter’ is also true!
Moving on to Red Bull’s unwanted engine supplier, formerly known as Renault Sport Academy and the newly Renaulution-rebranded Alpine Academy F3 driver Victor Martins has really impressed us during the Spanish GP. The Frenchman with a Portuguese-sounding name is strong psychologically and a mighty madman at the wheel. It’s oversteer like you wouldn’t believe! Victor drove like a man possessed, guns blazing, get cracking. We love it when these kids are right into it straight away, getting their right foot down (left-foot braking, mentally shaking and baking) when the cars hit the tarmac.
France has one of the brightest young stars in Martins. We had to find out what are his objectives for 2021, after all the reigning Formula Renault Eurocup champ has a point to prove and points to score in order to maintain his Alpine Academy support. Having said that, things are starting to bubble up quite nicely for VM based on his qualifying pace, this is where the absolute skill of the driver comes in.
“I think Alpine didn’t… I don’t have like a clear goal, especially for the beginning of the season. Obviously, the important thing will be to be consistent, to learn as much as possible at the beginning and then start to fight for the positions.
“Maybe pole, maybe victories, and then, yeah, build a really progressive year and fight for being like in the fight always, in the top 5 and top 3 until the end of the season. But at the beginning, I will say just to be well with the team and work well to have a good car and to fight for top 3 and even for victories and pole.”
The F3 rivalry goes up a notch at the next round at Le Castellet. Who will be the top dog in France? As is with coffee brewing, it’s time to separate the F3 wheat from the F3 chaff.
It’s game on.