Carlos Sainz Jr will lead a reduced line-up at the Red Bull Junior Programme next season. The Spaniard is joined on the Red Bull programme by FIA European F3 race winner and Macau Grand Prix victor Alex Lynn and Eurocup Formula Renault champion Pierre Gasly.
Following full-time GP3 Series run and a partial Formula Renault 3.5 schedule with Zeta Corse this year, Sainz Jr moves to FR3.5 category for a full effort with the DAMS squad.
He is to replace outgoing series champion Kevin Magnussen and will be partnered at the French squad by second-year driver Norman Nato.
This will mark a very important year for Sainz Jr, who has shown flashes of speed on occasion, but has also failed to find consistency throughout season long campaigns. Sainz Jr took three points finishes from nine races in the FR3.5 Series this year, while his GP3 efforts delivered two podiums and five further points’ scores.
He knows more is expected from his efforts, but does already appear to have some significant relationship with the DAMS group. “I tested for [DAMS] one year ago… Immediately we had a great feeling and we have remained in contact since then and finally we have been able to get together for next season.”
Unlike 2013, the Spaniard will also not have to contend with swapping championships, cars and teams on a regular basis – something that 19-year-old is sure will aid his 2014 efforts. “I think that it can be a very good thing, just to focus on one series and try to get the most out of it instead of trying to do several championships in different cars. It will be nine races, nine finals for me, I really want to fight for the title, to focus only in this category and try to win it.”
As noted some weeks ago, Gasly has joined the Red Bull programme, although this was only confirmed today. Like Sainz Jr, Gasly also moves to the FR3.5 Series for a full-season effort, albeit with Arden, taking the spot of former Red Bull junior and DTM debutante Antonio Felix da Costa.
The French youngster began by noting his desire to do like Robin Frijns and Stoffel Vandoorne and move to the front with immediate effect; however he is also aware that it will not be some easy task. “For next year I think that the goal is clear, I have seen from this year and previous seasons that it is possible to do a good job in the first season so the goal is to win the championship. I will have to work hard during this winter but I am very motivated and I think it is possible with Arden.”
Adding to the challenge for Gasly is his knowledge that the FR3.5 category is a big step up in power and aerodynamics from the Eurocup Series, but the 17-year-old is confident he will manage the step up. “The biggest difference is in the aerodynamics, there is more power of course but this is not too complicated to manage, I think that to get the maximum potential from the car in one lap is quite hard, you have to be on the limit everywhere and there is a lot of potential in the aerodynamics and this is where the performance lies.“
Meanwhile, Lynn became the first driver to be official revealed a GP3 Series driver for the next season. Lynn moves up from the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, where he scored three victories on his way to 3rd in the standings behind Raffaele Marciello and Felix Rosenqvist.
The 20-year-old will be contesting the Formula One feeder with Carlin next year, but will have to wait until the pre-season tests in March before he can turn a wheel in the GP3/13 machine. While it is not ideal, Lynn still sees other opportunities for some quality seat time. “There is no chance to get into a car until then but Carlin have a simulator so I will be working hard in that and with the engineers to get acclimatised ahead of time“.
Considering the car itself, Lynn continued: “In terms of car performance it is obviously a faster car but I believe that I can take the experience that I have gathered in the last two years in Formula 3 and in Formula Renault and do a good job as quickly as possible in GP3. I think that with the strength of the Carlin team and my experience we should be able to do a good job straight away.”
Alas with the shrinking of the junior squad, some drivers have lost out, with Tom Blomqvist having been dropped from the programme, joining Beitske Visser who split from Red Bull some months ago.
With a DTM drive with BMW confirmed for 2014, Antonio Felix da Costa has, in effect, graduated from the programme.