Franz Tost has refrained from putting extra pressure on current Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, despite the Frenchman admitting that there are capable threats waiting in the wings.
While insisting that he expects to do well enough to keep his seat or move on to bigger things in 2014, Vergne recognises that there are no guarantees with a Red Bull-funded seat, as Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi found to their cost when being replaced by the current incumbents.
Tost, meanwhile, admits that last year's STR7 did not develop in the way the team had hoped, restricting the performances of the two drivers as a result, and all parties are more confident that this year's successor will be a step forward.
“Both drivers showed good performances last season and both have stepped up,” he told the official F1 website, “The important thing is that we can give them the car to perform. Both have shown in the past that they can win races and championships and I am convinced that both Daniel and Jean-Eric have what it takes to develop into successful F1 drivers.
“Daniel is technically versed - he has a huge understanding of technical processes and gives superb feedback - while Jean-Eric is more aggressive in the car and also in the race. If you could combine these qualities, then you very likely would have a top driver.”
While both drivers will harbour hopes of being parachuted into the senior Red Bull Racing line-up next season should Mark Webber retire or move on, they – and Tost – are well aware that their careers could easily go in the opposite direction.
“That [is something] we don't know, [it] is pure speculation,” the Austrian admitted, “Let's do the season and then let's see - first what Mark Webber is up to, secondly how our drivers develop and thirdly what kind of Red Bull youngsters will appear on our radar. [Who has an advantage] remains to be seen, always assuming that we can give them a competitive car.”
Having given Alguersuari and Buemi three years to prove themselves, Tost is happy to give his current pairing a little more leeway as they move into only their second full seasons in the top flight, although both Ricciardo and Vergne know that the onus is also on them to keep improving.
“It is a learning process,” Tost explained, “No driver joins F1 as a complete driver. To get into F1 is one thing, to establish yourself in F1 is another, and to be successful in F1 a third. The important thing is that a driver has the potential to develop, that he is willing to deal with technical matters, that he is able to learn in the cockpit and cope with the environment around him, and then filter the important things that will bring him forward.