Infiniti Red Bull Racing has confirmed the final places on its 2014 driver line-up by announcing that Sébastien Buemi and António Félix da Costa will fill the test and reserve roles.
While Buemi gets a third consecutive year in the dual role, the announcement is some consolation for da Costa, who was overlooked for the second seat at Toro Rosso following Daniel Ricciardo's promotion to join Sebastian Vettel at RBR.
Swiss racer Buemi first filled the role in 2008 before graduating to an F1 race seat with Toro Rosso in 2009. He scored 29 points in 55 grands prix with the Italian outfit before being dropped at the same time as team-mate Jaime Alguersuari. While the Spaniard was left in the F1 wilderness, however, Buemi was retained to fill the back-up role behind Vettel and Mark Webber, and supplemented his employment in Milton Keynes with Toyota WEC outings.
da Costa, meanwhile, was seen as 'the man most likely' on Red Bull's development programme, and was widely expected to fill Ricciardo's shoes when the Australian was elevated to replace the retiring Webber for 2014. However, a frustrating season in the WSbR, combined with Daniil Kvyat's stellar run to the GP3 title, saw Helmut Marko and Franz Tost plump for the Russian talent instead, the youngster's cause also aided by the inclusion of Sochi on next year's schedule.
Despite promoting Kvyat ahead of him, Red Bull insisted that it would stand by da Costa and, having gained experience of the test and reserve role having substituted for Buemi at a few races during 2013, the Portuguese racer will now be given the chance to add to the outings he enjoyed at various Young Drivers' tests and show car runs.
da Costa will continue to race in 2014 too, having been snapped up by BMW's DTM squad [see separate story
], and the youngster is naturally going to feel that there is 'unfinished business' after a season in which he had to settle for three wins and third place in a WSbR championship he started as favourite for. He ended the season by backing up his 2012 Macau Grand Prix victory with second place in this year's edition of the race.
“It's great to be able to announce the signing of Sébastien and António for 2014,” team principal Christian Horner said, “Next year sees the biggest change to the F1 regulations for some time and the return of multiple in-season tests. To therefore be able to call on two such capable drivers is of huge benefit to the team.
“In Sébastien, we have a great resource, a driver with extensive grand prix experience and that will be invaluable. António, on the other hand, is an up-and-coming talent with whom we already have a good working relationship. I'm sure that his contribution will be just as important during what is sure to be an intensely busy season.”