Red Bull's Rising Forces

While we’re just a couple of months away from a new F1 campaign, spring also signals the start of motorsport seasons across the intensely competitive categories leading up to the top rung. And that means a whole new series of challenges for the rising stars of the Red Bull Junior Programme.

From first forays into racing with slicks and wings, to competing in F1’s major feeder series, our juniors will be going toe to toe with top talent from across the globe in a bid to power one step closer to the ultimate goal – a seat at the top table in Formula One.

So, without further ado. We introduce to you the Red Bull Junior Team for 2017.

Pierre Gasly
Nationality: France
Born: February 7th 1996
Series: Super Formula Japan

Pierre will already be well known to fans of the Team as one of our two test and reserve drivers (alongside Sébastien Buemi) and as the winner of last year’s GP2 championship.

Gasly clinched the title in dramatic fashion at a thrilling season finale in Abu Dhabi. Going into the weekend Pierre was staring down the barrel of a seven-point championship to series leader Antonio Giovinazzi. He dug deep, however, and victory in the Saturday feature race and ninth place in the Sunday sprint race were enough to erase the gap and hand the French the title by eight points. The title capped a superb rise through the ranks for Gasly, whose junior career also included a title win in the Formula 2.0 Eurocup championship and runner-up status in the 2014 Renault 3.5 litre category, where he narrowly lost out to none other than Carlos Sainz.

He now heads east from his native France to take on an equally tough challenge, Japan’s highly competitive Super Formula championship. The series last year helped Stoffel Vandoorne to his F1 drive with McLaren, so there are opportunities aplenty for Pierre in the land of the rising sun.

Niko Kari
Nationality: Finland
Born: October 6th 1999
Series: GP3

A relative latecomer to motorsport, Niko made his first competitive race start in karting in 2009. Since then though his rise has been meteoric. After a successful spell in European karting he made the transition to single seaters in 2015, racing in the SMP Formula 4 championship in Russia, Finland and Estonia. He made an immediate impact, not only for his committed and aggressive driving style but also for his outstanding pace (he scored nine fastest laps from 21 races) and an ability to scythe through to the podium places. He won seven times on his way to the title and beat his nearest rival by 153 points.

Last year he moved to the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and once again made a quick impression winning the first race at Imola after a late attack on eventual champion Lance Stroll, who will be lining up on the F1 grid with Williams in 2017. Niko finished the season fifth in the rookie standings and tenth overall. This year he steps up to the big leagues, racing on grand prix weekends in GP3, with the Arden team.

Richard Verschoor
Nationality: Netherlands
Born: December 16th 2000
Series: Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup

There’s another Dutchman in town! Hot shot Richard Verschoor enjoyed an outstanding 2016, winning not one but two F4 championships. Like stablemate Niko Kari, Richard competed in the SMP Formula 4 championship and the then 15-year-old blitzed the competition. After winning the opening race in Sochi, on the Russian Grand Prix weekend, Verschoor then rattled off ten consecutive wins – from the third race at the second Zandvoort weekend to the final race at Anderstorp in Sweden to take the title with three races to spare.

Not content with acing F4 in northern climes, in June Richard also started a full campaign in the Spanish Championship, where he was even more dominant, winning 17 of the season’s 20 races to take the title by a whopping 164 points.

After a hugely successful first year in single seaters, Verschoor now moves up to the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup series where he’ll be racing with the MP Motorsport team.

Neil Verhagen
Nationality: USA
Born: February 18th 2001
Series: Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup

Neil Verhagen began his racing career in karts in his home town on New York before stepping up to single seaters in the 2015 Skip Barber Winter Series. The youngster won the first three races of the campaign, at Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway, and went on to finish second in the championship.

Last year he moved to the F1600 Championship Series where he proved to be the class of the field, landing nine wins, 15 podiums, four poles and seven fastest laps on his way to the championship crown. The young American also competed in the SCCA club racing scene, winning every race of the SCCA Majors Tour Northeast Conference series. He also qualified for the SCCA National Championship Runoffs and at 15 years and 242 days became the youngest driver to win the Runoffs.

In 2017, he takes on the daunting challenge of moving to the ultra-competitive world of European racing with a first season Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup where he’ll team up with Richard Verschoor at MP Motorsport.

Dan Ticktum
Nationality: Great Britain
Born: June 8th 1999
Series: Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup

A star of the European karting scene, the UK’s Dan Ticktum began his single seater career in the 2015 British Formula 4 championship, where he was only outshone by former world karting prodigy Lando Norris. It was a tough period for Ticktum, however, and on-track transgressions led to penalties that meant he missed a large chunk of the 2016 season.

With a refreshed outlook and new purpose, the youngster came back at the end of last season’s British F3 Autumn Trophy, winning his second race. Blessed with outstanding pace Dan now heads into 2017 with renewed vigour. In company with fellow juniors Verschoor and Verhagen he’ll also contest the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup but with the Arden team.