Here in Milton Keynes the focus of attention is firmly on delivering the RB12 to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya next month for pre-season testing – but the wider world of Red Bull motorsports isn’t wholly focussed on activity in Bradbourne Drive.
As the new season approaches a fresh cadre of Red Bull Junior drivers are preparing for their own challenges in the year ahead. At different stages in their development all share the aim of climbing another rung on the ladder toward the ultimate goal of a Formula One race seat.
The purpose of the Red Bull Junior programme is to ensure talent gets its chance. Motor racing is not the most egalitarian of sports and, without intervention, wealth tends to upstage ability. Through the decades that's where sponsors, scholarships and junior programmes have stepped in. Red Bull's Junior Programme is one of them.
Three new names have been added to the roster, so time to get the lowdown on those making up the Red Bull Junior Programme for 2016.
At the top of the pyramid and fast approaching the ripe old age of 20, Pierre Gasly will continue in the Junior Team, combining his race programme in GP2 with his role as a test and reserve driver for Red Bull Racing. Having won Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2013, Pierre stepped up to FR3.5 for 2014. His rookie season was a triumph, the French driver finishing as runner-up to series Champion and fellow junior team member Carlos Sainz.
Last year he switched to GP2, driving for DAMS and gaining valuable experience of F1 circuits and race weekends. In addition to putting in the hours in our simulator this year Pierre will take another crack at GP2 with Prema Powerteam – so we'll have his company both in the factory and at the track throughout 2016.
Meanwhile, on the entry rung for single-seaters, the Arden team will be running Junior Team recruit Luis Leeds in MSA Formula (the British F4 championship). Luis continues a long and happy tradition Australian drivers in our ranks. Having come up through Formula Ford in Australia and New Zealand The 15 year-old Victorian has form in F4, having raced Down Under and in Mexico. The first round of the Mexican series, held at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez had a slightly larger crowd than average, being a support race for the returning Mexican Grand Prix. Luis won from pole in front of a crowd of 100,000.
16 year-old Niko Kari joins the programme having won the SMP F4 Championship in his debut season of single-seaters. Racing for the famous Koiranen Brothers outfit, Nico took seven victories in the FIA's northern zone F4 championship, racing in Russia, Estonia and his native Finland, finishing the season 153 points ahead of his nearest rival. For 2016 he moves up to the Formula 3 European Championship, in which he will race for the Motopark team, for whom drivers such as Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen have previously starred.
Among Kari's team-mate at Motopark will be another new member of the junior team, 17 year-old Sérgio Sette Câmara. The Brazilian from Belo Horizonte will be in his second season with the German outfit. Sette Câmara had a tough introduction to F3 but began to find form as the season progressed, scoring regularly in the second half of the year.
Keep up to speed with the Red Bull Junior Team in 2016 via the website RedBullJuniorTeam.com and on Facebook here.