After a superbly successful 2016 great things are again expected of the Red Bull Juniors in 2017. GP2 Champion Pierre Gasly takes on the Super Formula in Japan while continuing his work with Red Bull Racing supporting ex Juniors Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Niko Kari moves up to GP3 after an impressive debut in F3 last season and double F4 champ Richard Verschoor dives into Renault 2.0. Joining the Dutchman in the Eurocup are two new Juniors, Dan Ticktum and Neil Verhagen.
With ex Junior Team drivers sitting in all four F1 seats at Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso for the third year running the object of all five drivers' desire is very clear
Pierre Gasly – Born 7/2/1996 in Rouen, France
Racing in Super Formula Japan
"This a big new challenge for me and that is exactly what I love. For sure Japan is special. I went to the Grand Prix at Suzuka in 2015 as part of my work with Red Bull Racing so I have an idea of what to expect It is all going to be very different, I have no experience with the car or the tracks and I know that the Japanese culture, philosophy, way of working, just about everything is different."
"In a way I am following what Stoffel Vandoorne did last year before going into F1. It is more experience to add to the GP2 campaign last year," enthused the GP2 champion. "I am also really pleased to be third driver at Red Bull Racing for another season, to work closely with Max and Daniel, gaining more experience on how the team works, how they behave at the GPs. There is a lot to learn about the new car and new regulations, it is all very valuable."
"I think the Super Formula will help with that, a bit less power than a GP2 car so slower in a straight line but with more aero so quicker through the corners and that also relates to this year's F1 car. It will be very interesting to see how they all compare."
"I'm going into the Super Formula season with very little testing so it won't be easy at all, a car and six new tracks to learn. I'll still be based in Europe and flying backwards to Japan for the races there and my Red Bull Racing work here, It's going to be a great year."
Niko Kari – Born 6/10/1999 in Tuusula, Finland
Racing in GP3 with Arden International
By his own high standards Niko Kari was not impressed with his 2016 results and the Fin expects a great deal more from this year. "I think 2017 will be an exciting season, GP3 is a great challenge and I am looking forward to racing with the Arden team, I like the way they work and I hope the car works as well as we expect it to."
"I don't think GP3 is such a big jump from F3, sure it will be a different style of driving, the biggest difference is the tyres, tyre management will be a big part of it and I am looking forward to that challenge, I think I can do a good job of looking after the tyres."
"Also it's going to be interesting using the DRS I think it makes the racing better and it will be good to learn how to make the best of it."
Richard Verschoor – Born 16/12/2000 in Benschop, The Netherlands
Racing in the Toyota Racing Series with Giles Motorsport and Renault 2.0 with MP Motorsport
There is no doubt that Richard Verschoor did everything asked of him in 2016, winning both the NEZ and Spanish F4 Championship with total domination most weekends. He knows very well that he is unlikely to match the superiority he achieved last season as he steps up to the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series for 2017.
"I know it's going to be very hard. There are a lot of good drivers in the series and some of them have already done two or three years in the class. For me it is all new, new car and a lot of new tracks but I've already been in the car and I'm not too worried about that."
"My team is very good so I am confident in them but there are other good cars as well so while you have to have the right set up it is mainly going to be down to the driver."
Neil Verhagen – USA, born in Mount Kisco, New York on February 18th 2001
Racing in Renault 2.0 with MP Motorsport
"I can't wait for the 2017 season to get started. I know I will be up against a very competitive field in Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup. I am doing everything possible to prepare myself properly for the upcoming season with my goal being to win races and challenge for the championship."
Of course part of the challenge is moving from the USA to Europe. "I've made the decision to move to the Netherlands to be close to the team I will be racing with in 2017. I left behind pretty much everything I know in the US, and I definitely miss all my family and friends. It does feel a bit strange to do that and move somewhere where I don't even know the language. But I have to say that I really like the Netherlands. I'm quite busy with training but I am also finding time to explore the city I'm living and meeting everyone here."
Dan Ticktum – Great Britain, born in London on June 8th 1999
Racing in Renault 2.0 with Arden International
Humility is not always present in young drivers but Dan doesn't pretend to be perfect. "Some people will know the mistakes I've made. I have changed my attitude massively and I cannot wait to prove that to everyone." A strong statement going into 2017 but the seventeen-year-old Briton is very clear and not lacking in confidence when he lays out his expectations for the coming season. "To win the European Formula Renault 2 litre Championship."
He has already come a long way since he started serious kart racing in 2008 even though he was the first in the family to go racing. "None of my family have ever raced. My father and I both have a great passion for cars and I'm sure if my dad had the opportunity I have when he was my age he would have raced too."
Beyond this season his aims are very clear. "I want to get into F1, I can focus on winning the world championship once I'm there!"