Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has all but ruled out Jean Eric Vergne as a contender for Mark Webber’s soon to be vacated race seat, as Daniel Ricciardo or Kimi Raikkonen appear to be the most likely to partner triple world champion Sebastian Vettel next year.
Speaking to the media in the Hungaroring paddock, Horner said, “Jean-Eric is again demonstrating strong development and potential, but at this stage it’s probably too early for him. This is why we chose to look at Daniel in the test at Silverstone last week.”
Although Vergne leads Ricciardo in the points standings thus far this season, it is the latter who has been impressing the most of late.
Notably, Ricciardo has 11 mores starts in Formula 1 than Vergne which Horner believes makes the difference between he two.
“[Jean Eric] is six months behind Daniel in terms of Formula 1 experience, he is still learning and still developing. He deserves a seat in F1 and should he not be successful with the Red Bull seat then it would make logical sense for him to continue with Toro Rosso.”
“We are in the fortunate position that we have got two drivers that have come through the junior programme, that have exemplary junior careers. They have both done fantastic jobs when they have had the chance in a Red Bull car at the young driver tests.”
“They are both very capable drivers and both earned their seat in Toro Rosso on merit through the talent they have. That is obviously developing as they gather experience,” declared the Red Bull team boss.
Ricciardo was chosen over Vergne to test for Red Bull at Silverstone recently and Horner was impressed with the young Australian.
“Daniel is certainly a very quick racing driver. We had the ability to compare him [Ricciardo] against Sebastian [Vettel] who drove the car the following day and he acquitted himself well.”
“For any driver to go up against Sebastian, there is inevitably a pressure that will come from being measured against him. You have to be broad shouldered to deal with that. Of course there is an expectation that there isn’t perhaps in Daniel’s current team. The scrutiny from you guys [the media] is not there.”
“The pressure on any driver a in front running team is always greater. What Daniel has demonstrated so far has been very positive,” added Horner.
On the subject of Raikkonen the fact that the 2007 world champion would come at a heftier price (in terms of salary) than Ricciardo, is not an issue that will influence Red Bull’s decision.
“Finances are always a factor, but you can also contrast that with the difference between first and second or second and third or fourth is a significant amount in the constructors’ world championship. The financial element of it, if you don’t make the right decision, is going to impact anyway if you are not scoring points,” explained Horner.
Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz revealed earlier this week that the team would make a decision on Webber’s replacement after Budapest. Horner was more specific, “We will take the summer break to reflect and then after the summer break we will be at Spa or Monza, but it’s certainly not going to be later than that.”
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