London: Red Bull stoked speculation in the Formula One driver market on Tuesday by giving a young Australian the chance to prove that he is up to the job of replacing their “old” Australian.
Mark Webber, the most senior driver in F1 at 36, will walk away from the sport at the end of the season, leaving open the most coveted seat on the grid. The hot money is on Kimi Raikkonen, the maverick Finn, leaving Lotus for a one-year deal alongside Sebastian Vettel, the three-time world champion.
But Daniel Ricciardo has emerged as a serious contender after Christian Horner, Red Bull’s Team Principal, promoted him from the junior Toro Rosso team to the top squad for the three-day young drivers’ test at Silverstone, which starts on Wednesday. Ricciardo has put on a series of eye-catching performances this season, including qualifying fifth for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
It will be a busy three days for the youngsters wanting to shine, although Ricciardo will have only a single afternoon of running. James Calado, the promising British youngster, will have a day with Force India, while Carlos Sainz Jr will test with Toro Rosso.
But the talking point as ten of the 11 teams gather at Silverstone — Mercedes are banned after an illegal tyre test in May — will be of the backroom changes that took the sport by surprise Tuesday. Pat Symonds is leaving Marussia to replace Mike Coughlan as technical director at Williams.
The two have a strange connection: Symonds was banned from F1 after “Crashgate”, the case that shook the sport when it was revealed that Nelson Piquet Jr was ordered to crash his Renault so that Fernando Alonso, the team leader, could win the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008. Symonds is one of the most successful technical directors in the paddock, though, and his rehabilitation at Marussia obviously caught the eye of Frank Williams.
Coughlan was banned after the “Spygate” case in 2007, in which it was found that his McLaren team were using technical secrets belonging to Ferrari.