Achieving great success is never a straightforward task, of course if we boil it down to the basics it’s as simple as being the best at what you do, however when it comes to Formula 1 this couldn’t be a more difficult feat to achieve. Unlike most sports that allow the individual athlete to determine their own success, Formula 1 is a constant collaboration between the driver and the team to ensure that they can continuously out develop their rivals for the entirety of the season and secure a championship by the time they reach the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi. There are many contributing factors that must work in harmony for an F1 team to be successful, when you analyse a race weekend of any dominant team in F1, they you will see that they have implemented a structure within the team that runs like clockwork resulting in the inevitable success that we see on the Sunday. We’ve seen this most recently with Redbull, from their car, to their drivers, to their strategies, to their leadership, it’s extremely difficult to fault them and it perfectly explains why they are so far ahead of everyone at the moment. But there’s one more factor that a few teams on the grid currently benefit from which offers almost a cheat code to success, the junior/sister teams.
Alpha Tauri is the only sister team that it outright owned by the same corporation as Redbull and so can unquestionably be considered as Redbull’s sister team. The Faenza based team, formerly known as Torro Rosso, has shepherded in an entirely new generation of F1 with over a quarter of the current F1 grid having been apart of/remain a part of the Redbull family, either through Alpha Tauri/Torro Rosso or Redbull themselves. Redbull is no stranger to receiving criticism over how they handle their junior drivers with Redbull Team Principal, Christian Horner, noting that if they’re good enough “they swim”. There have been multiple instances in which Redbull’s cutthroat leadership style has cut short careers for their junior drivers whether that was replacing Kvyat in 2016 or demoting Gasly mid-way through the 2019 season, but we’ve also seen this junior team present many drivers with plenty of opportunities to prove themselves in Formula 1, which is quite a rarity when you consider the exclusivity of the sport. The benefit of having Alpha Tauri on the grid has allowed Redbull to scope out the talent of the future that will inevitably move on to the main team, it has also granted them the opportunity to develop drivers, such as Vettel and Verstappen, who have gone on to become multiple world champions once they made the jump up to the main team. Although this is not the only contributing factor to the success that Redbull have seen since joining Formula 1 in 2005, it can’t be understated how big of an advantage it is to have a sister team on the grid that essentially allows you to trial drivers and take you pick of the best that the junior academy has to offer.
There are no other teams on the grid that have as strong a link between a main/sister team as Redbull and Alpha Tauri do, however Alfa Romeo do have an association with Ferrari even if they are not directly considered a sister team. Alfa Romeo currently share the same engine as Ferrari but they are set to distance themselves and break this affiliation in 2026 coinciding with the Audi takeover. So, if Alfa Romeo are not technically a sister team, how exactly do they assist Ferrari? Alfa Romeo have been a back marker team for a majority of their time in Formula 1, they reached their highest position in the standings last year finishing P6 but it looks as though their newfound success did not carry over to 2023 as the new and improved C43 has gone done like a lead balloon. Their solidified position at the back of the grid has been a good testing ground however for Ferrari’s future stars such as Leclerc, who made his 2018 debut at the team before establishing himself as Ferrari’s front runner. In another unprecedented move that no one really saw coming, Alfa Romeo’s long standing team principal, Fred Vasseur, also jumped ship to the historic team joining Leclerc close to the top of the grid. So, whilst Alfa Romeo indirectly link to Ferrari, they have definitely assisted the team in brining in their next wave of talent from drivers right down to team principals.
In a similar fashion, Williams also share an indirect link with Mercedes. We’ve seen in the past that Mercedes’ drivers have previously been developed at Williams before being promoted up the grid to the top team. Bottas and Russell immediately come to mind as each driver started their career at Williams before going on to achieve the race winning success that they have. This has allowed Mercedes to ensure that once a driver reaches their team they have been tried and tested, this again works to the benefit of the larger team but leaves Williams as a testing ground for the future stars of F1 who will almost certainly move on to a team that are higher up on the grid. Despite Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff, stating that they will never have a sister team like Redbull, you can’t deny the role that Williams have played in providing them with a line up of drivers that have shown the potential to step up and deliver in a championship winning car.
With constant rumours of Alpha Tauri possibly being sold, Alfa Romeo merging with Audi in 2026 and Mercedes stating that Williams is not a sister team, it looks as though junior teams that serve to assist the larger teams on the grid could be a thing of the past. From a personal stand point I think this would be beneficial to the sport as it means that we would have more competitors who can develop and compete in their own right instead of being restricted to being the helping hand for a bigger team. We have seen the junior teams outperform the likes of a Redbull or Mercedes before, such as Gasly in Monza or Russell in Spa, but this is a fairly rare occurrence. It would be great to have 10 individual teams on the grid that do not bear any links and can exist as their own entity.