In the eight years that Red Bull’s junior team has been in Formula 1, Toro Rosso has fielded six drivers from the young driver programme with only one graduating to the senior ranks, world champion, Sebastian Vettel. With Mark Webber heading to pastures new in 2014 with Porsche, the second Red Bull seat the Aussie is vacating is currently the hottest in F1.
Out of the current incumbents at Toro Rosso, it would seem that only Daniel Ricciardo has a realistic shot of graduation. His team-mate, Jean-Eric Vergne was overlooked for the recent young drivers test by Red Bull, all but ending any designs he had on the seat. Ricciado however, has stiff competition in the form of the 2007 world champion, Kimi Räikkönen. Both parties have made no secret of the ‘low level talks’ that have been held since Webber announced he is to leave at the British Grand Prix earlier this month.
If the Ice Man does get the nod over another junior driver, what does this say about the programme overall?
So far, the only driver to emerge from Toro Rosso is of course, triple world champion, Sebastian Vettel. That by anyone’s book is setting the bar very high, so high, that Red Bull backed drivers, Scott Speed, Sébastien Bourdais, Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari have all fell by the wayside and out of F1 race drives altogether.
So should we call the young driver programme a failure if Ricciardo doesn’t get the drive? Or should we marvel at its ability to produce someone who could take all of Schumacher’s records over the next ten years?
After all, drivers like this don’t come along every day.