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GP Week : Issue 189
DAN'S THE MAN Daniel Ricciardo will replace his retiring compatriot Mark Webber at Red Bull next season, confirming the worst-kept secret of Formula One’s ‘silly season’ and putting an end to speculation over who would land the most coveted seat on the grid. Speculation over Webber’s future and his possible replacement first emerged early in the season after the team orders spat between Sebastian Vettel and Webber at the Malaysian Grand Prix led to a complete breakdown in relations between the two teammates. The speculation only intensified when Webber used the British Grand Prix to confirm that he would be leaving the sport to spearhead Porsche’s Le Mans effort, and Ricciardo and Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen emerged as the principal contenders for the seat alongside reigning triple world champion Vettel. “I think it’s a bit of a relief now that there’s no more speculation and no more dodging questions and all the rest of it,” R icciardo told journalists ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. “Everyone knows what’s happening, including me. It’s nice. It’s something to look for ward to and obviously I’m very pleased with the news but I have eight more races this year and looking forward to giving Toro Rosso a nice farewell I hope and I’ll put all my energy into that.” Apart from Ricciardo and Raikkonen, several other drivers had also been linked to the drive as the F1 silly season kicked into high gear. Fernando Alonso’s was name thrown into the mix, while some ludicrous stories even suggested that Michael Schumacher might return for yet another crack at the sport, forming a German superteam with protégé Vettel. But Webber let the cat out of the bag in Spa, telling Australian television that the decision had been made and that it was good for Australia. “It’s very, very rare to have any Australians in Formula One but to have us I suppose handing the baton over in a very, very successful team... it’s great for Dan obviously, he thoroughly deser ves it,” Webber said in Monza. Ricciardo’s promotion to the Red Bull seat is also positive for the energy drinks manufacturer in that it vindicates its highly-rated young driver programme and all the investment dollars the company is ploughing into producing another Sebastian Vettel. Apart from Vettel, Ricciardo – who became part of Red Bull’s junior team in 2008 – is the only other Red Bull -backed driver to have made it to the senior team. Several others like Brendon Hartley, Lewis Williamson, Jaime Alguersuari, Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi, who were either on the cusp of Formula One or were given a chance to prove themselves with sister team Toro Rosso, have either fallen by the wayside or been prematurely cast aside. “ 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,” Red Bull designer Adrian Newey said in a team statement. “ 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.” With Ricciardo’s appointment now confirmed, Red Bull’s attention will surely turn towards who to slot into the Australian’s seat at junior team Toro Rosso. Promising youngster Antonio Felix da Costa, who tested for the team at the young drivers test in July, has been tipped as the favourite while GP2 driver Felipe Nasr has also been linked to the seat. Carlos Sainz Jr., who has personal sponsorship from STR sponsors CEPSA, is also a strong contender. But Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost has been quoted as saying the outfit is in no hurry to make a decision on Ricciardo’s replacement. “As to who will replace Daniel at Toro Rosso in 2014, we will now look at all our options and make a decision at a later date,” he said. “T here is no immediate need to rush.” F1 >>> nEWs 5 GPWEEK.com // 5 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: