Following the wave of speculation surrounding his future in the wake of his ultra-impressive test outing for double F1 2010 World Champions Red Bull Racing in Abu Dhabi last week, it has been officially confirmed that Daniel Ricciardo will drive for 'junior' outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice sessions in 2011.
Having asserted that he feels ready to make the step-up to F1 now off the back of his title-winning British F3 campaign in 2009 and runner-up laurels in the World Series by Renault in 2010, it had been rumoured that Ricciardo might indeed replace Sébastien Buemi at Toro Rosso next season.
However, the 21-year-old Australian will have to content himself – for the time being, at least – with the role of STR's third and reserve driver, an appointment that will entail driving duties for the small Faenza-based concern in the Friday morning FP1 session for each grand prix next year, replacing Buemi and team-mate Jaime Alguersuari in-turn.
The Red Bull Young Driver Programme member will dovetail his new responsibilities with a renewed bid for World Series glory, and he admits the chance to gain experience around every circuit on the F1 calendar will be a great boost to his future hopes of one day joining the grid himself.
“I am really excited at the prospect of driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso in the FP1 sessions at the grands prix next year, so I have to say thanks to Red Bull for this great opportunity,” Ricciardo enthused. “My main priority for 2011 is to win the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship, but my ultimate aim is to be a full-time F1 driver – and this new role has to be the best step towards achieving that ambition.”
“When our team was created, its stated aim was to bring on young drivers from the Red Bull Junior Programme, so Daniel's appointment as our third driver is an obvious one,” added Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost, who only this week had hinted at a 'never-say-never' scenario regarding the squad's line-up for 2011 [see separate story – click here
“Although Daniel has done some F1 testing already, running on Fridays at the grands prix will give him a valuable insight into the additional pressures of doing it for real during a race weekend. I am also sure that having a hungry youngster on the books will keep our current driver pairing nice and sharp!”