Räikkönen and Ricciardo Are Front Runners for Open Red Bull Seat
Daniel Ricciardo, after testing for Red Bull at Silverstone. Photo courtesy of the Red Bull Racing Twitter page
As the second day of young driver testing at Silverstone Circuit concluded, Daniel Ricciardo of Scuderia Toro Rosso found himself topping the leaderboard against test drivers from every other team (save Mercedes), as well as Williams’ Pastor Maldonado. Things are looking good for Ricciardo, who is currently one of the front runners for the Red Bull seat vacated by Mark Webber for the 2014 season; 2007 World Champion and current Lotus star Kimi Räikkönen is rumored to be the only other name in the running. Both are competing to be the number two spot to reigning champ Sebastian Vettel for the team that has clinched the Constructors’ Championship for the last three years. Humorously, Ricciardo set the best lap time with his current car, rather than the Red Bull RB9 that he also piloted.
Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Éric Vergne is no longer being considered for the team, according to team principal Christian Horner. STR is one of two teams racing for the energy drink giant, with Red Bull Racing being the dominant of the two; as such, many consider STR to be the feeder team for Red Bull. After all, Vettel began his meteoric rise in F1 following his move to that team from BMW Sauber.
Ricciardo would be a safer choice by far than the outspoken Finn from Lotus. While a substantially better driver than Ricciardo, Räikkönen could pose a serious threat to Vettel. Räikkönen’s incredible talent combined with his famously aloof personality makes him an incredible driver but not a fantastic teammate. If this year’s Malaysian GP featured Vettel and Räikkönen, it wouldn’t be blasphemous to suggest that the race could have ended for Red Bull with both teammates crashing while jockeying for front position. Räikkönen would undoubtedly keep Red Bull in first place in the Constructors’ but could spell doom for Vettel, who already is facing stiff competition from Räikkönen this season.
The 2014 season is still six months away, so Red Bull has plenty of time to weigh their options. Given Vettel’s substantial influence in the team, it would be in his best interest to move Ricciardo up to Red Bull rather than move Räikkönen over and further threaten his chances at a 2014 championship.