Red Bull Racing’s reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo remains unsure of what lies ahead for him on the 2011 motorsport landscape, despite comfortably heading the timesheets in the two-day Abu Dhabi Young Drivers’ test session held last week.
The Australian wound up quickest on both days of testing in the RB6, and posted a lap time quicker than the pole position effort from championship winner Sebastian Vettel, although it must be acknowledged that the track was significantly grippier than at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.
A long-term Red Bull protégé, Ricciardo has risen quickly through the junior formulae, winning the British Formula Renault WEC crown in 2008, the British F3 title in 2009, and being pipped at the post in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship by Mikhail Aleshin.
Red Bull – which heads two F1 operations in its main stable and Scuderia Toro Rosso – currently has all four race seats occupied for the 2011 season, and the more likely progression would see him join the junior squad before a vacancy emerges in the senior outfit.
It is widely rumoured that 2010 championship contender Mark Webber will only see out the 2011 season before retiring, and that would prompt a wholesale change in the driver line-up and potentially allow the Perth-born driver to graduate into F1.
An alternative prospect would be to rely on Toro Rosso turfing either Jaime Alguersuari or Sébastien Buemi should they underperform next season – a habit that STR is no stranger to in recent seasons, although it has bucked the trend by retaining the same driver line-up from 2010 to 2011.
“I asked him if he’s got any news for me. But he genuinely said nothing has come up yet, there’s nothing even close to being confirmed.”
In a way it would be nice to know something now, but it’s not really under my control. The fact that he was being honest with me and telling me just for now to go back home and relax for a bit is not too bad,” he added.
“I can’t really stress about something that could or won’t be happening, so I’ll just sit tight for now.”
The most logical step for Ricciardo – unless something better comes along – would be a Red Bull backed drive in the GP2 feeder series for the 2011 season.
However, as several astute readers have pointed out, Red Bull tends to have a rather fickle relationship with many of its development drivers – let’s not forget its dumping of STR reserve driver Brendon Hartley in mid-2010 – and the Australian would be unwise not to consider casting his net further afield to keep his options open…