Ricciardo Set to Take Red Bull Seat as Räikkönen Negotiations End
Kimi Räikkönen will not be joining the Red Bull Formula 1 team next year, according to an AUTOSPORT interview with Räikkönen’s manager, Steve Robertson. Mark Webber’s exit after this season has freed up a spot on the #1 F1 team, and the Finn from Lotus has long been a strong contender for the position. It is assumed that Daniel Riccardo from Red Bull’s secondary team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, is the front runner for the open seat, although Fernando Alonso’s name has been floating around as a possible teammate to World Champion Sebastian Vettel. As the German and Hungarian Grands Prix have proven, Räikkönen is more than capable of giving Vettel a run for his money despite piloting the inferior E21. Vettel doesn’t have time to breathe a sigh of relief, however, as the rumor mill is working overtime to find out whether or not Räikkönen will move to Ferrari as suggested.
Even if Alonso was in the running for the Red Bull opening, it is unlikely that Vettel would give the current Ferrari driver and 2005-06 Champion the green light. A couple of subpar finishes in Bahrain and Monaco and a truly unfortunate DNF in Malaysia have relegated Alonso to third in the Driver’s Championship just one point behind Räikkönen. Given Alonso’s current position as the front runner for Ferrari, it is unlikely that he, like Vettel, would give in to team orders if such a situation ever presented itself. In that same boat would be Räikkönen, who couldn’t care less about opinions from the pit, and a command from the crew to let Vettel pass him would without question prove to be disastrous.
Ricciardo is undoubtedly the safest bet. He earned points in China, Spain, and Great Britain this year in addition to suffering a couple of retirements, and is strangely being considered over his STR teammate Jean-Éric Vergne, despite Vergne’s two point lead in the standings. Not only is the Frenchman leading 13-11, he has retired more times than Ricciardo, with four DNF’s to the Aussie’s two. Red Bull team principle Christian Horner confirmed last month than Vergne wasn’t yet ready for the big leagues. It is difficult to see why Ricciardo is preferred, but to his credit, he did set the best lap time at the young driver testing weekend at Silverstone last month.
With his fateful move to Red Bull all but sealed, Ricciardo has to be feeling an immense amount of pressure to perform at this critical moment in his career. We will see on Sunday at Spa in Belgium if he can return from the month long summer break and at least add a few more Championship points to his name.