Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost is hoping that his 2012 driver pairing, while relatively inexperienced, can follow in the footsteps of Sebastian Vettel and not only lead his squad to success, but also find a home in Red Bull's senior F1 outfit.
Speaking as Toro Rosso took the covers of its 2012 challenger less than two months after firing both of its previous 'bright young things', Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, Tost admitted that he hoped his latest pairing - Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne - could re-establish STR's role and reputation as a provider of talent for its sponsor's main F1 thrust, particularly as Mark Webber nears the end of his career in the top flight.
“Toro Rosso is to educate the young drivers for Red Bull Racing,” Tost confirmed to Reuters
after watching Ricciardo and Vergne unveil the STR7 ahead of this week's Jerez group test, "This is our philosophy and, within this philosophy, we do our best. I hope that these will be the next two Red Bull drivers for the future. They came into F1 and they have to prove that they can do this job and they have to develop their skills and then we will see. They have the chance.”
Both Ricciardo and Vergne have been a part of the Red Bull 'family' for some time, and have enjoyed various test outings with both the senior team and Toro Rosso over the past couple of years. However, when they line up on the grid in Melbourne next month, they will do so with just eleven races' experience between them, and all of that courtesy of Ricciardo's part-season with HRT in 2011.
Vettel, however, joined Toro Rosso in 2007 with very little F1 race experience under his belt and made the former Minardi outfit a racewinner by the end of 2008, triumphing in the wet at the Italian GP, and Ricciardo is obviously keen to mimic his forebear. However, Buemi and Alguersuari were dispensed with after Red Bull decided that neither had shown the necessary spark to become either a racewinner or world champion at the highest level, so the Australian is under no illusion that it will be a smooth ride.
“It's nice that we both made it work,” the 22-year old said of his reunion with Vergne, after the pair had teamed up in Formula Renault on their way up the ladder, “That's the part of their programme, to bring us to F1 from juniors, [and], so far, it's all been very good. Each year in the career, we've gone a step forward, and this is definitely a pretty obvious and big step - hopefully towards the big one one day. It's the first job done, but I guess we both want to be world champion, so it'll be a race to that one as well.”