Christian Horner says he has zero regrets over the dropping of top-flight drivers who have achieved success outside Formula 1; one of which being New Zealander Brendon Hartley.
Hartley was initially appointed as Red Bull’s and sister team Toro Rosso’s official test driver in 2009 at the tender age of 19.
Support for the Kiwi by the Swiss energy drink giant was then dropped following a winless Formula Renault 3.5 campaign alongside Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
However, in a surprise twist of fate Hartley was drafted back into Toro Rosso in 2017, this time as the team’s second driver. He was kept on for the full 2018 season before being replaced in favour of budding Thai racer Alex Albon.
Hartley has since added another Le Mans 24 Hour victory to his tally and secured the 2019 World Endurance Championship with Toyota last season.
The Kiwi’s portfolio is far from an anomaly in the Red Bull junior programme with several drivers shoved aside having found success elsewhere.
Jean-Eric Vergne departed F1 after three turbulent seasons with Toro Rosso. He has gone on to win back-to-back Formula E championships and is statistically the most successful driver ever in the all-electric Formula.
When asked whether the achievements of former Red Bull prodigies will haunt him, Horner said there are no regrets in any decisions made and the team provided an excellent base platform to nurture the growing talents.
“I think the great thing about that is that Red Bull has given this opportunity to so many guys out there, whether it was Jean-Eric Vergne, [Antonio] da Costa, Brendon, [Sebastien] Buemi. It was fantastic to see them win [Le Mans last month] and indeed they’re still supported by Red Bull.
“All drivers that wouldn’t have had that opportunity if it weren’t for Red Bull’s support and patronage in their earlier career days.
“But I don’t think there are any real regrets. The cream always rises to the top.
“I think that maybe it would have been interesting to see what da Costa could have done in a Formula 1 car, but that opportunity never really presented itself.”
Rising Formula 3 star Liam Lawson is the highest-ranked Kiwi on the team’s radar. Lawson finished fifth in the championship this year, scoring three race wins including a dominant display at the season finale at Mugello.
The next round of the F1 World Championship will be the Eifel Grand Prix on October 12 at the Nürburgring.