Red Bull motor sport chief Helmut Marko insists that no decisions have yet been made on who will drive for Toro Rosso next year, and says that the options will be discussed next month.
The team has four candidates, with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne both vying to replace the current drivers.
Theories about what might happen range from Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari both staying to – at the other extreme – both being booted out.
The bottom line is that the main purpose of STR is to develop a driver who can replace Mark Webber at RBR in 2013, should he finally take the retirement route.
It’s no secret that Ricciardo and Vergne are generally regarded as the better long term prospects, but there remains a possibility that Red Bull could find seats for one or both elsewhere, as it did with the Australian at HRT this year. Caterham has been mentioned as a possible home, on the basis that Jarno Trulli will be invited to retire.
“It’s a luxury problem, and I’m sure we’ll find a solution,” Marko told this writer. “We will analyse it. There’s no need for next year, we are talking about 2013, so we have time, and all four of them can prove something.
“We have a meeting in Salzburg later in December, and then we go through all the possibilities.”
Asked about how he rated the seasons of Buemi and Alguersuari, Marko said: “I would say they both improved from mid-season onwards, unfortunately Buemi had more technical issues. But still, we are not looking for a good F1 driver, we are looking for a top F1 driver.”
The last comment doesn’t sound like an endorsement of the current line-up…
Meanwhile Christian Horner made it clear that he’d like to see Daniel Ricciardo continue to gather racing miles in 2012.
“I think that Daniel has done a good job in the races that he’s had, so we need to look at the opportunities and options that are available,” said Horner. “I’m sure in the run-up to Christmas we’ll conclude on what his programme will be for next year.
“He’s learned for sure in the races he’s done, obviously it’s in difficult circumstances, in a car that is a long way off the pace. But he’s still been learning, he’s been up against a competitive team mate. I think he’s acquitted himself well. It will be nice to see him in a Grand Prix seat next year.”
Asked by this writer what influence he had on STR choices, Horner said: “Toro Rosso discussions are between Toro Rosso and Dietrich [Mateschitz], but obviously we have a vested interest in terms of the young drivers coming through.
“We’ve got four guys in the programme, in Buemi, Alguersuari Daniel and Jean-Eric, they’re four strong drivers, and I think for Red Bull it’s a healthy situation to have a pool of talented youngsters.”