Marko: Ricciardo ready for Red Bull team leader role

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One of the stories of the year in Formula One has been Daniel Ricciardo’s emergence at Red Bull Racing.

The Australian is the only driver outside of the Mercedes garage to win this year (three races) and with three races remaining, is the only non-Mercedes still mathematically eligible for the title even though it’s a longshot.

Ricciardo has mostly left teammate Sebastian Vettel in the shade this season, and has already played himself into a team leader role for 2015 at Red Bull with Vettel’s surprise departure announcement made on the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.

The 25-year-old Australian has Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s top motorsport consultant, in his corner backing him.

“Yes, if we did not have a ‘team leader’ then the situation would look slightly different – but we knew that Daniel would fill these shoes, so things were much easier,” Marko said in a Q&A with Formula One’s official website.

“We always knew that he can fill anybody’s shoes – and that all our drivers are always treated equally,” he added. “The only difference will be that between him and Daniil (Kvyat) next year, he has more experience.”

Marko also spoke highly of Kvyat’s maturation, growth and development in his first year at Toro Rosso. The 20-year-old Russian would not have been promoted if Marko didn’t think he was ready.

“We do have the cozy situation of having a pool of great talents we can choose from as we want. And believe me, we wouldn’t have promoted him if we didn’t believe that he can deliver!” he said.

Next up, of course, is attempting to figure out Kvyat’s replacement at Toro Rosso, with the likelihood it could be another young driver installed alongside now-17-year-old Max Verstappen.