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.