Luis Leeds: Australia’s next F1 hope?

Australian Formula Four driver Luis Leeds has signed a long-term deal with the renowned Red Bull Junior Team to compete in Europe in 2016.

The deal, announced on Friday, will see the 15-year-old move to the technically identical MSA Formula in the United Kingdom to race with TRS Arden Junior Racing Team, which is owned by Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that has been given to me by Red Bull and Dr [Helmut] Marko,” said Leeds.

“It has all come as a surprise, and I’m grateful for this chance.

“This is only a first step — it’s now up to me to make something of this opportunity and return the faith.”

The Red Bull Junior Team’s alumni include four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, 2014 World Endurance Championship winner Sebastian Buemi, and Formula E driver Jean-Eric Vergne.

Leeds competed for DREAM Motorsport in the inaugural season of Australian Formula Four, in which he recorded five podium finishes, including a second place in the third race of round four at Sandown.

Though he finished sixth in the Australian championship standings, his outstanding victory in the first ever Mexican Formula Four series in front of 100,000 people at the Formula One Mexican Grand Prix was enough for Red Bull’s authorities to sit up and take notice.

“To travel overseas and race in Mexico was an amazing experience and to have the success was unbelievable,” recounted Leeds.

“It’s all been possible through my family and DREAM Motorsport. They’ve developed me as a driver this year, heading towards my goal of making F1.”

“I also want to say a big thank you for everyone who has given me support in 2015: to Preston Hire and Peter O’Shea for their generous sponsorship and to DREAM Motorsport for all the development this year.”

Formula Four category manager Cameron McConville said Leeds’s success is a sign of Formula Four’s relevance to the international motor racing scene.

“It’s a great chance to benchmark our Australian F4 drivers against the rest of the world, and a strong endorsement that a brand like Red Bull has kept an eye on our drivers,” said McConville.

“On behalf of the team behind the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula Four Championship, we’re all extremely proud and wish Luis all the best in 2016.”

Indeed Leeds’s signature on a Red Bull contract is a massive tick for the fledgling Australian Formula Four series, which has come in for flack from the local motorsport community despite its international series status.

Along with Leeds’s success, championship runner-up and Leeds’s fellow DREAM teammate Thomas Randle earnt a test with British-based European Formula Three team T-Sport.

Championship winner Jordan Lloyd was awarded a test with European F3 team Carlin, while both he and Randle have also been offered a V8 Supercars testing day with Nissan Motorsport.