14 June 2013
Ricciardo fears losing ground to Vergne in RBR race
Daniel Ricciardo is concerned that Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne's recent performances may have moved the Frenchman ahead of him in the race to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014.
They say a week is a long time in politics, and the same – with a couple of tweaks to the wording - may be said for F1 when it comes to 'silly season' perceptions.
Although the annual driver merry-go-round is still in understated early-season mode, the space of three race weekends has seen the jostling to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull take another turn.
While Kimi Raikkonen is still believed to hold the trump card when it comes to potentially partnering Sebastian Vettel at the world champions from 2014, the two Red Bull 'juniors' vying for the chance to step up from a holding pattern at Toro Rosso continue to stake their claim with a series of points finishes.
Following the Spanish Grand Prix in early May, Daniel Ricciardo was viewed as the more likely to replace his countryman, having taken a decent grid position and points from Barcelona. Since then, however, the Australian fears that team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne may have moved ahead of him in the pecking order, following back-to-back top ten results in Monaco and Montreal, while Ricciardo posted a DNF and a 15th-place finish respectively.
“Like any racing driver, I'm very highly motivated to compete with my team-mate, so having such a poor race when 'Jev' had an excellent one adds to the frustration,” the 23-year old conceded.
Knowing that this year could be crucial to his chances of landing a top-line seat in F1, Ricciardo's concern may be well-founded in light of recent comments from Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, who appeared enthused by Vergne's recent run.
“Jean-Eric impressed with his performance in Monaco and, in Montreal, he was even better,” Marko noted in an interview with RMC after the Frenchman racked up Toro Rosso's best finish since Vettel won at Monza in 2009,
“It was not just a good race, he was very quick all weekend. In qualifying, he made no mistakes in the rain and, during the race, I saw him fight with talented drivers. This is only his second year in F1 and, for the second year, it's really impressive. While we are looking for drivers who can win grands prix, for the moment, he is on the right track.”
Despite taking encouragement from STR's general upturn in performance, Ricciardo said that his results were not for lack of effort.
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