Ferrari Racing Director Laurent Mekies believes that Formula 1 teams have been left trying to "catch up" to Red Bull's success with their junior driver programme.
The squad have brought many well-known drivers through the ranks of the sport, including the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, with many starting out at the formerly-called Toro Rosso outfit before progressing to the main F1 team.
Several of Red Bull's rivals also have junior programmes, including Mercedes, Alpine and Ferrari.
Mekies – who is set to become AlphaTauri's Team Principal from the start of the 2024 F1 season – admits that the scheme has become hugely important in recent times.
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Mekies: Other teams 'trying to catch up' to Red Bull programme
"The [Ferrari] Academy for us, it's a project that is extremely important," Mekies told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"We have been putting a huge amount of energy in the last few years into it. You can see on the grid, not only in F1, but also in F2 and F3 that, nowadays, most of the drivers are already contracted with some of the teams' academies from very early on.
"So it becomes a strategic topic."
With Red Bull having achieved success with drivers that have come from their junior programme, Mekies admits that the Milton Keynes-based team have set the bar for F1 academies.
"It's probably also fair to say that Red Bull started first with a huge amount of success to develop these academies, and after that each team has been having their own interpretations to try and catch up," Mekies added.