Red Bull today finally confirmed the worst kept secret of the season; that Daniel Ricciardo will replace Mark Webber as team mate to Sebastian Vettel next season.
The team says this deal, which puts the 24 year old from Perth Australia into a winning car with a great opportunity to make a name for himself is a ‘multi-year agreement.’
It was important for the Red Bull young driver programme that another graduate hit the top of the ladder as it hasn’t produced a world beater since Vettel in 2008/9. Many young drivers have fallen by the wayside since then.
According to Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost, “When Dietrich Mateschitz acquired the team that became Toro Rosso, his stated aim was that it should be the final step in the training of young drivers, with the eventual goal of graduating to the “senior” team.
“Daniel’s move thus vindicates the work of the Red Bull Young Driver Programme and also proves that we at Toro Rosso have given him a good racing education.”
Ricciardo drove for the team at the Young Drivers Test at Silverstone in July and impressed with his consistency. His speed was already known from previous young driver tests and from his performances with Toro Rosso.
At the recent Belgian Grand Prix, Webber told Australian Network 10 TV that the decision was already made, but Ricciardo insisted that he had yet to be informed, although he hinted that he was feeling quite confident he’d done enough to get the seat.
Only this evening has team boss Christian Horner confirmed it with a short statement.
“It’s fantastic to confirm Daniel as the team’s race driver for 2014, ” said Horner. “He’s a very talented youngster, he’s committed, he’s got a great attitude and in the end it was a very logical choice for us to choose Daniel. He joined the Red Bull Junior Team in 2008 and we’ve seen in his junior career in Formula 3 and Renault World Series that he’s capable of winning races and championships.
“He’s stood out in each of these categories and we’ve followed his progress with great interest. He’s got all the attributes that are required to drive for our team: he’s got a great natural ability, he’s a good personality and a great guy to work with. Daniel knows what the team expects from him; he’ll learn quickly and it’s very much a medium to long term view that we’re taking in developing him. The seat within the team is a wonderful opportunity and I think he’s going to be a big star of the future.”
Adrian Newey commented, “Since Mark announced his retirement, Christian and I have been looking carefully at the driver market, along with Helmut Marko and Dietrich Mateschitz. We could have taken an experienced driver, somebody guaranteed to deliver to a relatively known level, or equally we could take on a much younger driver in the hope that they’ll develop to a very high level. We looked at the latter option and concluded that of the younger drivers, Daniel is the most promising.
“From Red Bull’s point of view that also fits well because the driver that Christian and I feel is the most promising is part of the Red Bull young driver programme. The decision actually reminded me a little bit of a similar situation we had when I was at Williams. Nigel Mansell was leaving and we needed someone alongside Alain Prost. We could stick with Riccardo Patrese or take a punt on a young driver called Damon Hill who was our test driver at the time. I think it’s good to bring young blood in and give promising drivers a chance.”
“I feel very, very good at the moment, ” said Ricciardo. “And obviously there’s a lot of excitement running through me. Since joining F1 in 2011, I hoped this would happen and over time the belief in me has grown; I had some good results and Red Bull has decided that this is it, so it’s a good time. Next year I’ll be with a Championship-winning team, arguably the best team, and will be expected to deliver. I’m ready for that.
“I’m not here to run around in tenth place, I want to get the best results for myself and the team. I would like to thank the team for giving me the opportunity to show what I can do. I know the team quite well already since being its reserve driver in 2010, which should make the transition easier. It will be a great challenge to be up against Sebastian Vettel, I’m looking forward to that. My aim is to finish this season as strong as possible, for myself and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Then, once the off-season is here, I’ll be fully focussed on next year and the next stage of my career.”