15-year-old Victorian Luis Leeds is soon to embark on the opportunity of a lifetime, after signing with the Red Bull Junior Team in late 2015.
With Red Bull Junior Team alumni featuring the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jnr., Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, even Leeds was stunned to look back at how far he has come in the space of just one year.
“It all goes so quick. One day I’m testing at Winton, here I am getting ready to go to Brands Hatch!” Leeds said.
Leeds will race with renowned British squad Arden International in the MSA Formula, after spending the majority of 2015 competing in the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship.
“I did choose to race [Australian] F4 in definitely the toughest year,” Leeds said.
“Obviously it was the first one, CAMS have done a great job to implement F4 here. I was able to gain all that knowledge of driving F4 cars. I gained all this valuable experience of driving cars and learning how to control the F4.”
Alongside his Australian Formula 4 programme, Leeds also enjoyed occasional appearances in Australian Formula Ford, German Formula 4 and Mexican Formula 4 throughout 2015. It was at the Mexican Grand Prix Formula 4 support race where Leeds attracted a personal meeting with Red Bull’s senior motor sport bosses.
“I went into the Mexican F4 weekend without actually knowing anyone from Red Bull was there,” Leeds said.
“I later found out that Thomas Überall (Red Bull Motorsport Chief) was sitting there as I got back from the podium!”
From spending much of his career in relative obscurity, Leeds’ announcement of joining the Red Bull Junior Team shot the young Victorian front into the minds of Australian motor sport fans, media and racing community.
“It’s been a crazy journey so far. I just want to keep it going and all the support that I get from everyone here is just…it’s amazing, it’s great,” Leeds said.
“To know that Daniel Ricciardo and other people that have such a high ranking in Australian motor sport all know my name, it’s just a great feeling.”
Despite the flattery from his colleagues and supporters, Leeds is aware of the major challenge that awaits him in a matter of months.
“Now obviously I’ve got the goal of winning the [MSA Formula] championship, but I’m going to carry the mindset of just taking it session by session really,” Leeds said.
“I know that if I do the best I can and listen to my engineer, Steve, then everything should go alright.”
Having already tested the MSA Formula 4 car, of which it is an almost identical configuration to Leeds’ Australian Formula 4 car, Leeds only needs to adjust to living life as a 15-year-old in Europe.
“Going over there [to Europe] wasn’t much of a problem, it was more so just building a family type relationship with the team – seeing as I’m living there on my own and they’re going to be taking after me quite a bit,” Leeds said.
“Arden [is] a great team, they’ve looked after me well so far. I’ve had the one test so far in Valencia and it all went really good.”
Having received advice for much of his junior career, Leeds had this advice for other young Australian drivers who aspire to one day be in a similar position to Leeds.
“Always start off with a dream. No matter what anyone says, just keep following it,” Leeds said.
“It doesn’t matter how young you are or whatever your results are, people are always watching and everything you do counts. Just make sure everything you do, every race you go into, put 110% in and you’ll get the best out of it.”
The opening round of the MSA Formula takes place on April 2–3 at Brands Hatch. Everyone at the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship wishes Luis all the best in 2016.