Red Bull protégé Daniel Ricciardo should have certainty about his F1 future before Christmas, according to Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner. With officials keen to see the rookie driver remain on the grid, the Australian has now been linked with a switch to Team Lotus – or what will become Team Caterham – in 2012.
Having temporarily suspended and then reinstated its driver academy, the drinks giant now has six drivers on its books, and not nearly enough seats for all of them.
Rumours were doing the rounds earlier this year that one or both of the Toro Rosso drivers – Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi – would be made to make way for Ricciardo (who has been earning his stripes at HRT F1) or the team’s newly-appointed reserve driver, Jean-Éric Vergne.
But the latest sources now indicate that Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko won’t scuttle their careers at the eleventh hour, meaning the Faenza team should (sensibly) keep both of its drivers, who have driven very well for the team this year.
This now leaves the team with the quandary of what to do with Vergne and Ricciardo.
As the less senior of the two, Vergne might have to consign himself to a role as a Red Bull or Toro Rosso reserve driver and hope for a vacancy in 2013, while Ricciardo is likely to find himself squeezed out of HRT in favour of a well-funded pay driver.
Therefore, the latest rumours are that the 21-year-old will be helicoptered into Team Lotus/Caterham, particularly after team boss Tony Fernandes met with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner during the Brazilian Grand Prix.
“Daniel has done a good job this year and now we need to look at the opportunities available,” Horner is quoted as saying last weekend at Interlagos.
“He has learned from the races, albeit in difficult circumstances with a car that was far from the pace. But still he gained some experience and fought against a talented teammate [Vitantonio Liuzzi].
“I am confident that his programme for next year will be decided before Christmas.”
[Images via Sutton Images]