David Coulthard has told Red Bull Racing to pull out all the stops to try and secure Fernando Alonso's services to replace him in 2009, whilst admitting that should the Spaniard not be willing to commit, Sebastian Vettel would be the 'next-best thing'.

Coulthard announced just prior to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone that he is to hang up his Formula 1 helmet at the end of the current campaign, following 15 seasons in the top flight that have yielded no fewer than 13 victories, 62 podium appearances, twelve pole positions and a staggering 533 points, making him statistically the highest-scoring British driver of all time and fourth on the overall list, behind only multiple world champions Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and the late, great Ayrton Senna.

Whilst endorsing Vettel to take his place - as is reckoned within the F1 paddock to be little more than a formality - the 37-year-old did suggest that the young German should perhaps not be quite top of Red Bull's shopping list for next year.

"[The seat] should go to the quickest guy with a proven track record who is available," he wrote in his regular column for ITV. "That might be Fernando Alonso for instance; if the team could get him that would make sense, because he has great credentials as a double world champion.

"If we assume he's not available, though, then it's completely logical to take Sebastian Vettel, who is within the Red Bull family, is performing well at Toro Rosso and naturally wants to progress to the larger team."

Coulthard will remain as a consultant and development and test driver at the Milton Keynes-based concern in 2009, and has also revealed that, at the age of 37, he is expecting to become a father for the first time - confirming reports that fianc?e Karen Minier, a former F1 journalist for France's TF1 TV station, is pregnant.

Whilst acknowledging the timing is 'convenient', he is equally quick to point out, however, that this news had borne no influence on his decision to retire.

"That wasn't the deciding factor," he insisted, "because plenty of drivers have children and continue with their careers."

Scuderia Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger, meanwhile, has admitted that should Vettel indeed graduate to the parent Red Bull squad in 2009, he would like to replace him with a rookie - even if he sees no viable candidates on the horizon just yet.

GP2 front-runners Bruno Senna - whose uncle Ayrton was a former McLaren team-mate and close friend of Berger's - and S?bastien Buemi, Red Bull's current test and reserve driver, have both been linked to a potential seat at the small Faenza-based concern, whilst World Series by Renault contender and sometime A1GP ace Salvador Duran's name has also now seemingly entered the frame.

The latter has links with Carlos Slim, who F1SA points out is 'a very wealthy Mexican businessman who may be looking to bring his brand Telmex into Formula 1'. Berger, however, was quick to pour cold water on any such speculation.

"At the moment I cannot see anybody [suitable]," the Austrian ten-time grand prix-winner told sportnet. "[Buemi is] quick now and then, [but] he is inconsistent and therefore not yet ready [for F1]. It is true that I looked at Duran last year, [but] this year there has been no contact."

 

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