What has been generally accepted for weeks is now official: Daniel Ricciardo will drive for Red Bull alongside Sebastian Vettel in 2014. The 24-year old Australian will take the place of Mark Webber, who leaves Formula One at the end of 2013 after a 12-year career including seven seasons at Red Bull.
Ricciardo is the recipient of what is truly the chance of a lifetime. He will race alongside arguably the top current F1 driver at the current top F1 team. He will have the opportunity to win races and compete for the world championship. On the other side of the coin, he will have no valid excuses should he fail to perform.
Ricciardo is the second product of the Toro Rosso team to be signed for Red Bull – Sebastian Vettel himself was the first. Toro Rosso exists partly as a training ground for Red Bull drivers, and so far the system has worked well, albeit briefly. Vettel won a race for Toro Rosso in 2008, to-date the only Toro Rosso victory, before replacing the retiring David Coulthard at Red Bull in 2009 and taking that team’s maiden victory at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo has not had the same level of success as Vettel did at Toro Rosso, but that is understandable considering that the team is not as competitive as it was back in 2008. Nonetheless, Ricciardo is highly rated and expected to excel in his new team next season.
Red Bull’s new driver is understandably thrilled at being signed to drive for the world champion team. Ricciardo said after the announcement:
“I feel very, very good at the moment 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.”
Ricciardo made it clear that he knows what is expected of him as a Red Bull driver, saying, “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.”
Despite his excitement, Ricciardo remains focused on the task of securing results for his current team, Toro Rosso, in 2013: “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 focused on next year and the next stage of my career.”
Kimi Raikkonen will not be moving to Red Bull at the end of this season, Turun Sanomat reported today. For some months, Raikkonen has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Mark Webber, after the Australian announced he will be leaving Formula One at the end of the 2013 season. But this report confirms that Raikkonen is out of the running for the second Red Bull seat.
Raikkonen’s manager, Steve Robertson, told Tarun Sanomat, “The negotiations with Red Bull were not successful and ended some time ago.”
Robertson did not, however, provide any further indication of Raikkonen’s plans for 2014. His contract with Lotus expires at the end of 2013, but Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has made no secret of the fact that he is making every attempt to retain Raikkonen’s services past the end of the season.
It seems likely that Raikkonen will remain with Lotus. The 2013 car is competitive – Raikkonen is currently second in the Drivers’ Championship – and Raikkonen is by all accounts very happy in the team, where he enjoys a relaxed atmosphere and a fair amount of freedom to do as he pleases as long as he delivers on the track.
With Red Bull out of the picture, Raikkonen’s only remaining alternative to Lotus is Ferrari, the team with which he won the 2007 World Championship, but also the team that effectively kicked him out when Fernando Alonso came knocking at the door at the end of 2009. Ferrari would no doubt be able to offer Raikkonen a very tempting salary and a competitive car.
From the viewers’ point of view, the prospect of Raikkonen partnering Alonso at Ferrari is extremely appealing. They are regarded as two of the top drivers in Formula One at present, perhaps ever, and would (assuming Nico Rosberg does not win the 2013 title) make up the only driver line-up consisting exclusively of World Champions next season.
For Red Bull, it now appears that their 2014 driver line-up has been decided for them. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted some time ago that only two drivers were in contention for the second Red Bull race seat – Raikkonen and Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo. The way now seems clear for Ricciardo to be announced as Sebastian Vettel’s team-mate for 2014. That announcement could come as soon as this weekend, when Formula One returns to action in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.