Japan’s Super Formula is now a “good training ground” for Red Bull’s future F1 drivers.
That is the view of Dr Helmut Marko, who is getting behind the top Japanese open wheeler category like never before.
“We were very impressed last year with the performance and development of Pierre Gasly, so we are sending some other drivers to Super Formula next year,” he said.
In charge of Red Bull’s junior programme, Marko is referring to Dan Ticktum but also Lucas Auer.
Auer’s appointment in particular is a surprise, because the nephew of F1 legend Gerhard Berger is already 24 years old.
Marko says Red Bull is throwing him a lifeline following the withdrawal of Mercedes from the German touring car series DTM.
“We want to keep Auer’s career going,” he told Speed Week.
But he also admitted Red Bull’s “new partnership with Honda is having an effect”.
What Marko means is that Red Bull will directly back three Honda-powered Super Formula cars in 2019, also including Adrian Newey’s son Harrison.
“We support the young Newey, but he is not a Red Bull junior team member,” Marko clarified.
As for Auer, Marko admits F1 cannot be ruled out in the future.
“With Super Formula alone, he cannot get the points he needs for a formula one license,” Marko said. “He needs more.”
Nonetheless, Marko admitted he likes what he sees in Super Formula.
“The cars are fast and it seems to be difficult to get the best from the tyres, which is similar to Europe,” he said.
“Generally it is a very impressive field and a good training ground for formula one.”