Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo will partner with triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel at Infiniti Red Bull Racing when the 2014 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season which kicks off next March.
West Australian Ricciardo, 24, has signed a multi-year contract to replace compatriot Mark Webber, who is leaving Formula 1 at the end of the 2013 season to drive for Porsche in the World Endurance Championship.
Ricciardo made his F1 debut for the now defunct HRT team at the British Grand Prix in July 2011 before switching to Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s ‘junior’ F1 team, at the start of the 2012 season. His best result to date is seventh in China this year and he lies 14th overall in the 2013 Drivers’ World Championship.
“I feel very, very good at the moment and obviously there's a lot of excitement running through me. Since joining F1 in 2011, I hoped this would happen and over time the belief in me has grown; I had some good results and Red Bull has decided that this is it, so it's a good time,” said Ricciardo, for whom this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix marks his 43rd Formula 1 appearance.
“Next year I’ll be with a Championship-winning team, arguably the best team, and will be expected to deliver. I’m ready for that. I'm not here to run around in tenth place, I want to get the best results for myself and the team.
“It will be a great challenge to be up against Sebastian Vettel, I’m looking forward to that. My aim is to finish this season as strong as possible, for myself and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Then, once the off-season is here, I’ll be fully focussed on next year and the next stage of my career.”
Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Ron Walker welcomed Ricciardo’s promotion. “Having an Australian driver in the front ranks of Formula 1 can only be good news for our own event in Melbourne and for the popularity of the sport in this country,” he said.
“In our own small way we helped engineer Mark Webber’s graduation to Formula 1 and we will never forget the scenes when he scored World Championship points on debut in 2002. Now we all wish Daniel well as he seeks to leave his own imprint on the sport.”
Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, was quick to point out that Ricciardo has already established himself as a favourite in Australian race-goers’ eyes.
“Dan has raced at Albert Park for the past two seasons,” he said.
“On both occasions his happy-go-lucky personality and his ability to relate to younger fans in particular have made a major contribution to the feel-good factor at our event.”
“We are very confident he will build on that even further now he has been given the chance to drive the front-running car in Formula 1.”
Ricciardo’s Infiniti Red Bull Racing debut will take place at the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Albert Park on 16 March (subject to confirmation of provisional calendar).