Two races in to the 2013 Formula One season, and questions about next season are already beginning to arise. Following the incident between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia, and Christian Horner’s subsequent claim that Webber would have made the same move, it appears that Red Bull will be seeking a new driver for the 2014 season. Therefore, who is in the running to join Vettel in Milton Keynes?
Would it be so crazy for Nico Hulkenberg to join a fourth team for his fourth season of Formula One next year? When you have as much talent as he does, certainly not. Hulkenberg has already proven that he can qualify strongly (putting his Williams on pole for the 2010 Brazilian GP), and even manage a race in the lead (2012 Brazilian GP). With Helmut Marko calling him a “future champion”, Red Bull could opt for an all-German line up in 2014.
Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo
Ever since Scuderia Toro Rosso was set up in 2006, the team has always been the ‘feeder team’ to Red Bull Racing. However, Sebastian Vettel is the only driver to have gone on to bigger things, whilst the rest of the drivers have been dropped by the team, and in some cases, Red Bull altogether. Although Vergne and Ricciardo are yet to match Vettel’s stint with Toro Rosso, they have both shown signs of speed. However, they may be more focused on staying in Formula One instead of joining the champion team, and they will need to improve on their one point haul in 2013 so far.
Buemi is one of the drivers to have been dropped by Toro Rosso, but he joined Red Bull as their official test driver in 2012, and if Webber was to walk away before the end of the season, he would be the obvious choice. However, Buemi’s lack of true success could put off Red Bull, and he is only likely to be approached if they fail to land Hulkenberg. Regardless, his name will definitely be thrown around when a decision needs to be made.
Antonio Félix da Costa
The young upstart from Portugal has turned many heads in motorsport over the past twelve months. As well as finishing third in GP3 last season, da Costa finished fourth in Formula Renault 3.5 despite only completing two-thirds of the season. He has impressed in the Young Driver Tests, and at 21 years of age, da Costa is unquestionably a star for the future. In an ideal world, he would slot into the Toro Rosso setup, but Red Bull could reap the rewards if they take a gamble by promoting da Costa early. As McLaren proved with Lewis Hamilton in 2007, sometimes a rookie driver isn’t always a bad thing…
Could we see a turn around in relations at Red Bull though? If Mark Webber can have a strong 2013 season, he could make all questions about a replacement worthless, and perhaps even challenge Vettel for supremacy in the team.