Red Bull Racing has confirmed the blatantly obvious, finally announcing that Daniel Ricciardo will partner Sebastian Vettel at the Milton Keynes outfit for the 2014 season on a multi-year deal.
Nonetheless, the news is great for Australian fans, who will have a driver to cheer for in the post-Webber era who also has a realistic chance of winning Grands Prix.
For Ricciardo, who has spent two impressive seasons with Toro Rosso following his part-year debut with the HRTF1 Team, the news could not be better.
“I feel very, very good at the moment and obviously there’s a lot of excitement running through me. Since joining F1 in 2011, I hoped this would happen and over time the belief in me has grown; I had some good results and Red Bull has decided that this is it, so it’s a good time,” he beamed.
“Next year I’ll be with a Championship-winning team, arguably the best team, and will be expected to deliver. I’m ready for that. I’m not here to run around in tenth place, I want to get the best results for myself and the team.
“It will be a great challenge to be up against Sebastian Vettel, I’m looking forward to that. My aim is to finish this season as strong as possible, for myself and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Then, once the off-season is here, I’ll be fully focussed on next year and the next stage of my career.”
“It’s fantastic to confirm Daniel as the team’s race driver for 2014,” Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner added.
“He’s a very talented youngster, he’s committed, he’s got a great attitude and in the end it was a very logical choice for us to choose Daniel. He joined the Red Bull Junior Team in 2008 and we’ve seen in his junior career in Formula 3 and Renault World Series that he’s capable of winning races and championships. He’s stood out in each of these categories.
“He’s got all the attributes that are required to drive for our team: he’s got a great natural ability, he’s a good personality and a great guy to work with. Daniel knows what the team expects from him; he’ll learn quickly and it’s very much a medium to long term view that we’re taking in developing him. The seat within the team is a wonderful opportunity and I think he’s going to be a big star of the future.”
The announcement comes after weeks of dithering by the team’s management, as it reportedly sought to lure Kimi Raikkonen from the clutches of Lotus. Ultimately the deal didn’t come through, so it does rather feel like the West Australian’s signing was the team’s second choice. Again, it doesn’t reflect well on a history of poor driver management by the team.
The deal is still a smart insurance policy by Red Bull Racing, particularly with Sebastian Vettel having only signed a short extension to his contract, leaving the German – who is an unbackable favourite to claim four World Championship crowns in a row – in the pound seats to nab a seat at a rival team when the driver market opens up.
However, it is also the timing of the announcement – which misses the print cut-off for most of the major European newspapers as well as all of the Australian press – that is surely not one of the masterstrokes that its marketing team will recall with great fondness, particularly when today’s F1 press will be dominated by the world premiere of the RUSH F1 movie.