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Whenever Helmut Marko and Red Bull junior drivers are mentioned in the same sentence, what comes to mind? Drastic changes happening at Red Bull, maybe? Well, this time is no different. Considering the Abu Dhabi GP is the final race of the season, you can be rest assured it has nothing to do with mid-season driver changes. Instead, it has something to do with communication between the team and its drivers. And the junior drivers played a role in Marko realizing the positives of the changes.

Earlier this new, Nyck De Vries—a new addition to the Red Bull family—failed to live up to his expectations. In light of that, Helmut Marko showed him the door at the first chance he got. From Marko’s comments after FP1 in Abu Dhabi, rookies Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar won’t meet the same fate De Vries did. At least not in the near future.

Red Bull may be changing its ways

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For the first time this season, neither Max Verstappen nor Sergio Perez drove the RB19 in a session. Why? F1 requires every team to run a young driver (someone who has started less than three races) in two FP1 sessions in a year. After sealing both championships and a 1-2 finish in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time ever, Red Bull gave Dennis and Hadjar the controls to the RB19.

Dennis, 28, is the reigning Formula E champion. Hadjar, 19, is competing in F2 this season. The French-Algerian driver also drove Alphatauri’s AT04 during FP1 at the Mexican GP this season. In Abu Dhabi, both rookies were closely matched in FP1, finishing P16 and P17—Dennis ahead of Hadjar. Helmut Marko seemed impressed with them, giving his thoughts after the session. He said, “Jake Dennis isn’t a junior. He’s in his relatively high 20s, but he’s our main simulator driver. So, it was important that he could compare IT with reality. And you can tell from him that he is, of course, much more experienced.” The Red Bull advisor had similar praises for Hadjar.

“Hadjar was just a tenth slower until the last lap. Then, there was a dangerous situation with the Aston Martin. But he also did his job well,” said Marko, referring to Hadjar’s moment with Lance Stroll toward the end of FP1. He then explained the changes Red Bull made in Abu Dhabi. “We also completely changed the engineering crew. [The] data engineer and race engineer are each in their positions for the first time. And this communication and how they handled it was also very positive.”

Read More: “Checo Has to Deliver Now”: Helmut Marko Serves Strict Warning to Sergio Perez as Poor Run Continues

Helmut Marko and Red Bull may be turning over a new leaf when it comes to their communication with drivers. However, Marko’s communication with AlphaTauri has stayed the same. That’s to say that, usually, what he says goes. 

Helmut Marko still has almost complete control over AlphaTauri

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The Abu Dhabi GP is the final race for AlphaTauri Team Principal Franz Tost. After the curtains are drawn in 2023, the Austrian will step down from his role. In light of this, he featured on F1’s Beyond The Grid Podcast. During his conversation, he talked about how drivers are selected for AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s sister team. Since the Red Bull Junior Driver Program started, Marko has been the one in charge. Even though AlphaTauri is technically an independent team, Red Bull uses it to bring junior drivers into the sport. So, Marko has considerable control over who drives for the Italian outfit.

Tost explained the selection process on the podcast. He said, “First, the young drivers are being selected by Dr. Marko.” The Austrian boss cited how the drivers come through the F4, F3, & F2 feeder series before their names reach his table. He continued, “Of course, there were sometimes discussions. Helmut wanted the driver, I wanted the driver. Most often, he [won that battle]. But we always had a meeting with [Dietrich] Mateschitz (late Red Bull founder). But Dietrich was more often on the side of Helmut. Unfortunately, sometimes this was the case, but this is how it is.”

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What are your thoughts on how Helmut Marko goes about things at Red Bull and AlphaTauri?

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Written by

Aditi Krishnan

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"I don't know who I would've been if I didn't love sports as much as I do." I'm Aditi, and I'm a senior F1 Writer at EssentiallySports. For F1 and me, it was love at first sight back in 2020.
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Edited by

Aishwary Gaonkar