Mark Webber’s impending departure from F1 leaves holes in the hearts of many fans. His earnest and forward approach have earned him a reputation of righteousness and honour amongst the paddock, and will be sorely missed. Red Bull may miss his personality too, but they’re going to be at more of a deficit for losing his driving.
As everyone knows, Red Bull have won the Drivers’ and Constructors’for the last 3 years. The Aussie may be comprehensively overshadowed by his all-conquering team mate, but 9 wins since 2009 is no slouch either. Without his efforts, the Constructors’ championships would not have been possible, and these accomplishments rather beg the question – With whom will Red Bull replace him? Below, I weigh up the contenders.
Also, it’s worth ignoring SkyBet’s utter UTTER tosh and bollocks about Jenson Button. If Button joins Red Bull in 2014, I will throw myself into the Baltic sea in a leotard.
The Swiss has been out of a race seat for two years now and is surely itching for a chance to get back into the sport. Sitting in the Red Bull Third seat might be close to racing, but it is agonisingly so. None the less, his testing duties will be smiled upon by the Red Bull supremos, as it is a subservient and important role to fulfill. Unfortunately though, two years in the wilderness of testing are not what is required to get back into the sport, let alone at the very top level.
|Hard work testing probably wont pay off|
WHY: Has been away for too long
For whatever reason, the dreamers out there named The Iceman as a successor to Mark’s throne. It’s an incredibly tantalising prospect, isn’t it? Two of the fastest and most outspoken men in the sport racing together under the same roof would be a soap opera for sure, but the in-house brawling would surely spoil the dream. Whenever teams have been in the wonderful position of picking the cream of the crop, they’ve generally gone for the two best drivers possible. Most recently this was done by McLaren when they retained Hamilton and signed Button, but having two drivers so hungry for wins meant that the duo were effectively stealing points off one another in 2010 and 2012 (ignore 2011 on account of Vettel’s omnipotence) and they both had to settle for top-5 results rather than either one of them rising to the top.
Raikkonen finished Third in his comeback year last season, and will not be content with anything less this time around, or indeed, in 2014.
|Kimi’s more than happy in the fantastic Lotus Team, for now|
WHY: Too many 5-star Michelin cooks in the Red Bull kitchen
He first came to everyone’s attention in the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers’ test in 2011 where he absolutely wiped the floor with everyone else, including very highly-rated drivers like Alex Rossi, Robert Wickens, Jules Bianchi and Valtteri Bottas. This earned him his 2012 Toro Rosso seat, which he retains to this day. He scored 4 times in 2012; 8th place every one of them. He grabbed a 10th in Malaysia this year, backed up in Monaco with another of his favourites, and 8th. However his finest hour so far has been in Canada, where his best qualifying was achieved (7th) and also bettered in the race result, finishing 6th. However, it’s questionable whether these results alone will gain him that seat. McLaren again provide a good example; when they signed Perez last year it was because of three podium finishes. The STR8 is fast, maybe the fastest in a line, but it ‘aint podium-fast.
If Vergne is serious about challenging for the Red Bull Number 2 spot, he needs to continue on the path he appears to be forging. Finishing inside the top 5 will catch the eyes of the Red Bull Brass.
|JEV is doing a solid job|
WHY: Needs more points
The son of Keke is finally getting the break he has honestly deserved. Four mediocre years with a Williams team in decline led him to Mercedes. While he was easily able to outshine Michael Schumacher for three seasons (very much easier said than done) he never fully realised his power, save for a faultless weekend in Shanghai in 2012 to take his maiden win. That win may have been a false dawn, but Nico has announced himself as a proper racer just like his old man, with a dominant win in Monaco, and a somewhat inherited victory in Britain. I don’t doubt that Nico will win again this season, and why not have a pop at the championship too?
Mercedes pulled a hell of a lot of strings to get Hamilton there for 2013, and as they build the team around him, maybe Nico’s sights should be set even further forward.
|As Hamilton makes Mercedes his own, he may jump ship|
VERDICT: The Dark Horse
WHY: Already successful, but capable of subservience
PAUL DI RESTA
Paul’s emphatic entrance to F1 in 2011 came with a very big claim – The guy that used to beat Sebastian Vettel. In 2006 he won the European Formula 3 series and edged out the World-beater by 11 points to clinch the title, when the two were team mates (along with other F1 drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Geido van der Garde) and thus in equal machinery. Paul’s been excellent in 2013. He’s led races (Bahrain) and equaled his best result with P4 at the same race. He has strung together points in 7 races this year, only failing to do so in Malaysia where a 2-minute pitstop ruined his day, and an off-the-pace German GP.
While excellent qualifying and the podium are still proving elusive to the Scot, he should take great pride in his current feats, and should be a strong contender for the seat.
|Paul’s sensational season marks him as a huge contender|
VERDICT: Definitely in the running
WHY: Outperforming his equipment
In the same way that Arsenal FC replaced Fabregas with Arteta in 2011, swapping Webber for Riccardo would be like getting a ‘Lite’ version. Maybe it’s just an Australian thing and I’m clutching at straws for an observation, but there is some more weight to it than that. Ricciardo (and his colleague Vergne) began their F1 careers at Toro Rosso, which traces its roots back to Webber’s rookie team, Minardi. However, STR weren’t a bad side at the time of Jean-Eric and Daniel’s arrivals, and Minardi were at the bottom of the barrel in 2002 when Mark joined. Out of the two current Toro Rosso drivers, only Ricciardo has the experience of being with a minnows team, when he drove for Hispania in 2011. This also means he’s more experienced than his team mate.
His best result might be one worse than JEV’s, but the extra half-year of experience and a superb 5th-place qualifying in Silverstone maybe, just possibly give him a slender advantage.
|“The New Webber”?|
VERDICT: The most likely
WHY: Flourishing product of Red Bull’s junior academy
So there you go, in my eyes, that’s how the names line up. Of course, as we dwell on the mid-season predicaments and ponder who will go where next year, all sorts of ridiculous rumours and speculation will be flying around.
Put to bed any notions of ‘super teams’ of the very very best with Vettel, because they are not going to want to play second fiddle. The big names are below, along with a shooting-down of their prospects of joining Seb:
As mentioned, is being honed by Mercedes and aimed at the WDC.
The Tifosi adore him. He is more than ecstatic on the throne of the Ferrari empire.
Too devoted to Ferrari, and probably past his peak.
Way too much of a liability for a team like Red Bull, although he is getting better.
Hahahahaha. No really, stop. He’s nurturing Perez and trying to revive McLaren, and enjoying team leadership.
I would hate to have to eat my own words about Button come a few months’ time, and believe me, I’m not usually such a stubborn person, but it really just feels wrong, to imagine Button at Red Bull; I really don’t see it.
Whomever takes the seat will likely be blessed with another fantastic technical specimen courtesy of Adrian Newey and Co. Though the new regulations will shake things up to a high degree, they got it absolutely right last time there was a major change back in 2009, and you could probably put money on them doing it again. The superior machinery, though, comes with a price, which is sacrifice. Everyone knows Vettel is nestled tightly to the bosom of Dr. Helmut Marko and the other Austrian heirarchs, and the ‘Lion’s Den’ aura may put some contenders off.