Scuderia Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost has increased the pressure on current drivers Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari by suggesting that reserve Daniel Ricciardo is almost certain to race for the Italian outfit in 2012.
The Australian is currently undertaking Friday morning practice duties in place of one or other race driver, and Tost admitted in Turkey that his impressive showings were only serving to confirm the likelihood of him being promoted to a full-time seat next season. The 21-year old, who is skipping rounds of the World Series by Renault in favour of gaining as much F1 experience as possible, is a former British F3 champion and a product of the Red Bull development scheme which previously provided reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel with a route into F1.
"He should learn the team, all the race tracks, to work together with the engineers, get a little bit of knowledge about the press work, about the marketing and this should be the preparation for him to race for Toro Rosso in 2012," Tost told reporters after the opening day of the Turkish Grand Prix, which saw Ricciardo finish eighth fastest in a wet practice session.
Tost, well-known for ramping up the pressure on Toro Rosso drivers, insisted that there were no plans to promote Ricciardo before the end of the season, contradicting hints that he made at the start of the campaign.
Red Bull Racing counterpart Christian Horner paid tribute to Toro Rosso's record of bringing on young drivers, having benefited from Vettel's brief stint at the Italian team before moving to RBR, but denied that he was eyeing anyone from the current roster as a potential signing in the future, despite speculation over Mark Webber's career.
"Toro Rosso are doing a great job of developing young drivers," the Briton commented, "Sebastian Vettel came through the Red Bull Junior programme and as a graduate from Toro Rosso, so, of course, we keep an eye on how the Toro Rosso drivers are developing.
"It's great to see, not just the current drivers, but the future drivers as well, further down the ladder, [such as] Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, even Carlos Sainz Jr in Formula Renault. Red Bull has invested in some real talent, but it's way too premature to be speculating on whether or not any of those will sit in a Red Bull Racing car. We're happy with our current line-up and that's what we're focused on."