Driver shortlist for 2015 Toro Rosso seat confirmed

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Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has confirmed that four drivers are in the running for the second seat at the team in 2015.

17-year-old Max Verstappen is set to become the youngest ever driver to start a grand prix in 2015 when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso, and he was due to partner current driver Daniil Kvyat.

However, following Sebastian Vettel’s shock decision to quit Red Bull at the end of 2015, Kvyat was confirmed as his replacement last weekend, continuing the team’s policy of promoting young drivers from its B team.

This has left Toro Rosso considering its options for 2015 once again, and although Formula Renault 3.5 championship leader Carlos Sainz Jr. seems to be the obvious choice, Tost has said that there are other options being considered.

“There are also other drivers [besides Sainz],” Tost said. “We have Jean-Eric Vergne, which is an experienced driver, we have Carlos Sainz Jr which is currently leading the 3.5 litre Renault championship, then we have Pierre Gasly, we have [Alex] Lynn.

“Fortunately Red Bull has a lot of very fast, high skilled drivers in the driver pool and within the next weeks, Red Bull will decide who will get this seat.”

The inclusion of Jean-Eric Vergne may come as a surprise to many, given that he has enjoyed two years at the team already. Kvyat’s promotion appears to have given him something of a reprieve, but it still seems unlikely that he will be kept on given that Red Bull has passed over him twice now. Christian Horner, team principal at Red Bull Racing, has also suggested that Vergne is not a candidate for the seat.

Sainz’s case is perhaps the strongest, given his form in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship this season. He is set to win the title in Jerez later this month, and has also been linked with a seat at Caterham towards the end of 2014.

Unlike Sainz, Pierre Gasly does not stand much of a chance of securing the seat despite a very impressive debut season in the Formula Renault 3.5 series this year. The French youngster has enjoyed an impressive junior career, and although he is definitely a driver that should grace F1 in the next few years, it may be a bit too early for him in 2015.

Alex Lynn would be the ‘curveball’ choice for Red Bull. The British driver is on course to win the GP3 championship – just as Kvyat did in 2013 – and could be the man to deny Sainz his F1 debut. If he doesn’t get the nod, a move up the ladder to GP2 would be logical for next season.

It is clear why Red Bull’s junior programme is the envy of the entire paddock, given the wealth of options available, but we should know who is moving up to F1 in 2015 in the next few weeks.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.