F1 needs another Minardi to bring up young drivers
Formula 1 needs more teams like former outfit Minardi because there are now too few opportunities for young drivers to break through, says Haas team boss Gunther Steiner.
Minardi raced in F1 from 1985 until being bought by Red Bull and rebranded as Toro Rosso in 2006.
The Faenza-based squad was renowned for giving young talented drivers a chance, with Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber all making their debuts with the team.
With the departure of HRT, Caterham and Manor, which was responsible for giving Mercedes juniors Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon debuts last year, F1 is lacking a clear entry point like Minardi offered.
As a result, Fеrrari is in talks to make Sauber its junior team to provide a proving ground for its youngsters, including Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi, to gather race experience in F1.
“The difficulty for young drivers is they need to be in the right time at the right place,” said Steiner. “There is nothing else you can do for it, at the moment you cannot even buy a cockpit.
“When Minardi was around, Minardi was maybe happy to be last, that was their duty to bring drivers up. Maybe they were not happy to be last but they could live with it because that was their business model – to develop drivers, that’s a good business model.
“It’s like when [Daniel] Ricciardo drove the HRT [in 2011], you knew he was not going to do anything but it gave him experience and that’s not there any more.
“It’s maybe a good thing we don’t have these teams [running at the back], [but] maybe it’s a bad thing…”
Steiner says the big teams are reluctant to run young drivers without previous F1 experience because of the risks, particularly given the big step between F2 and the new generation of F1 cars.
“I think they [Leclerc and Giovinazzi] are both good guys, with very good potential,” said Steiner.
“Between Ferrari and Mercedes, the next good guys will come out of one of them. [But] how they get into a seat is difficult, Formula 1 in that respect is very difficult.
“F2 to F1, it’s a different ball game, it’s such a big gap. You need a little bit of learning. To put Charles or Antonio straight away in a Ferrari, it’s a big risk.
“It can go well, but there are bigger chances it goes wrong, because the expectations are so high, to make any little mistake.
“The sport is so complex, you make mistakes when you’re young because you don’t have experience. You cannot buy experience – you need time.”