Feb.7 (Reuters) Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso unveiled the car on Monday that could rocket Australian Daniel Ricciardo or French team mate Jean-Eric Vergne to the Formula One big time.
Double world champion Sebastian Vettel spent a season with Toro Rosso in 2008, winning the Italian Grand Prix and graduating to Red Bull at the end of the year in a meteoric rise to the top.
The 24-year-old German became the sport’s youngest ever double champion last year while Red Bull also retained the constructors’ crown.
Vettel’s Australian team mate Mark Webber’s contract runs out at the end of this year when one of the most desirable seats in the sport could become available.
“Toro Rosso is to educate the young drivers for Red Bull Racing,” said team principal Franz Tost after they had pulled the wraps off the STR7 car, which featured a similar stepped nose to other 2012 challengers.
“This is our philosophy and within this philosophy we do our best,” he added.
“I hope that these will be the next two Red Bull drivers for the future. They came into Formula One and they have to prove that they can do this job and they have to develop their skills and then we will see. They have the chance.”
Both have tested for Red Bull already and while 21-year-old Vergne is a rookie, Ricciardo, 22, raced for tail-enders HRT last season.
The two were also team mates in the junior Renault 2.0 series.
“It’s nice that we both made it work,” said Ricciardo. “That’s the part of their programme, to bring us to Formula One from juniors. It’s the first job done but I guess we both want to be world champion so it’ll be a race to that one as well.”
“So far it’s all been very good. Each year in the career we’ve gone a step forward and this is definitely a pretty obvious and big step hopefully towards the big one one day.”
Tost said the target was to move up the grid after finishing eighth last year with Spain’s Jaime Alguersuari and Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi.
“The STR7 is the third car designed, fabricated and assembled completely by Toro Rosso,” he told reporters at a launch laid on by Spanish oil company CEPSA, one of three Abu Dhabi-owned team sponsors.
“We have invested a lot of money to build up the infrastructure and I hope the results will be good in the forthcoming season.
“Last year we finished eighth in constructors’ and this year we hope to do better, so seventh or more.”