The Red Bull group has moved quickly to make sure its impressive young charge doesn’t get snatched up by another outfit, signing Daniel Ricciardo to be Toro Rosso’s reserve and ‘Friday’ practice driver for the entire 2011 season.
The 21-year-old Australian will alternate between the cockpits of the team’s regular drivers, Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi, during the opening Friday practice sessions at each of the 2011 Grands Prix.
“I have to say thanks to Red Bull for this great opportunity,” Ricciardo said as part of the announcement. “My ultimate aim is to be a full time Formula One driver and this new role has to be the best step toward achieving that ambition.”
The Perth-born driver – who finished second in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship and impressed many with his pace in the season-ending Young Driver test at Abu Dhabi – was hotly tipped as a replacement for Buemi at the Faenza-based squad, who is rumoured to have fallen out of favour with the junior Red Bull outfit after a lacklustre second half of 2010.
“I am sure that having a hungry youngster on the books will keep our current driver pairing nice and sharp,” said Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost, perhaps hinting that Ricciardo may be called up to the main role if either Alguersuari or Buemi do not deliver as expected.
It was also announced that Ricciardo will contest a second season of the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, rather than move to the GP2 feeder championship series.
With Ricciardo joining the 2011 F1 field alongside his established compatriot Mark Webber, it will mark the first time that two Australians will occupy the same track in F1 since Ryan Briscoe was Toyota’s Friday test driver in 2004.
[Original image via LAT]