Despite stating his belief that he was hopeful of retaining the services of Daniel Ricciardo for another season, Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost has now said he thinks there is a 'pretty high' chance that the Australian will move to Red Bull for 2014.
Ricciardo is one of three-men now believed to be in the frame for the second seat alongside Sebastian Vettel, with Kimi Raikkonen also in contention and rumours emerging at the weekend in Hungary linking Fernando Alonso with a drive.
Tost had been quoted in the media as suggesting that a move had come too soon
for his driver but said he felt the 24-year-old stood a good chance of earning the chance to replace sportscar-bound Mark Webber.
“The likelihood is pretty high,” he told the official F1 website when asked of the chance of his drivers partnering Vettel next year. “Red Bull Racing is showing interest in Daniel and the decision will be made inside Red Bull. So there is no decision yet - but my understanding right now is that it could, in fact, be Daniel.
“I think that analysis has shown that Daniel is going strong so far - especially in qualifying - that he has raised his game continuously and there is still half the season go where he can gain even more experience. He must never forget one thing: he would be moving to Red Bull Racing - the three-time world championship team - which means that the bar is pretty high.
“To race alongside Sebastian (Vettel) you better have what it takes if you are not planning to drown. And I think that Daniel - should Red Bull point at him - has it.”
Tost added that Ricciardo would need to raise his game to partner Vettel if a deal was done for 2014, stating that any driver partnering the triple champion would be in for a 'rough ride'.
“He has to bring a lot to the table, that's for sure,” Tost said of a future partner. “Let's have a look at Seb: he's a three-time champion - at least per today - which indicates his huge talent. He's also extremely disciplined; he's got a sharp technical understanding - probably one of the best in the paddock; he can fight ferociously - he's proven that time and again; and he is established in a winning team that he has built up with.
“Remember: when Seb left Toro Rosso to join Red Bull Racing, the team was in no way the winner that it is today - Seb has contributed a lot to make it happen. So if you want to be the new kid on the block you better have all these facts in mind - and show even more commitment to come at least close to Seb. That will be a rough ride!”