Until 2011, Jann Mardenborough had never sat behind the wheel of a real-world racing car, despite spending countless hours on Gran Turismo, zooming around the virtual track. Now, he’s the newest driver to join the Red Bull Racing team.
Mardenborough is confident about his future at Red Bull, which has signed him up to the in-house driver development program:
I’ve prepared well and I have all the right people around me to help my development so I can fully focus on my racing. Formula Three has taught me so many things, both in the car and out of the car, both mentally and physically.
The driver was discovered after taking part in the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy, the same talent search that lead to the discovery of Spaniard Lucas Ordonez. After winning the competition’s inaugural season, Ordonez earned a podium finish at Le Mans, and is now the subject of an upcoming movie.
Mardenborough, from the UK, has enjoyed similar success: His first real-world race was in 2012, but since then he has competed in the European Formula Three series, and following in Ordonez’ footsteps, finished on the Le Mans class podium last year.
Red Bull believes Mardenborough’s future is in open-wheel racing, so the team is setting him up in the GP3 series to compete in most of the European grand prix meetings.
While his progress has followed some familiar steps, it is unusual for an F1 racing team to pick a driver without childhood go-karting experience. Red Bull Racing’s driver development manager Andy Damerum maintains that Mardenborough is a good fit:
The traditional route to F1 of karting and single-seaters is a tried and tested success but Nissan and PlayStation have gone down a very different road and started to find some very talented drivers who have been doing all their practicing on a games console.
If all goes to plan, this could see the driver on the F1 grid within a short period – last year’s GP3 champion, Daniil Kyvat, was part of the same Red Bull team, and has been promoted to the company’s Toro Rosso F1 stable for this year’s race season.