At last some concrete news has been unleashed regarding the driver line-up for next season, with Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo finally being confirmed at Red Bull for next season alongside Sebastian Vettel. The 24-year-old will replace fellow countryman Mark Webber at the Milton Keynes-based outfit next year.
With Red Bull’s all-important line-up finally confirmed after many months of arduous speculation linking everyone from Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and even Michael Schumacher to the golden drive, the eyes of many will now begin to slowly return to the other vacancies now freshly created after the Australian ace’s move. With one seat now confirmed for the new season, another has been made vacant at Toro Rosso alongside Jean-Eric Vergne who is a favourite to remain at the Faenza-based outfit after loosing out on the chance of graduation to Red Bull.
Although a certain Kimi Raikkonen has been unable to perfect a switch from Lotus to Red Bull, the Finn is still a possibility for Ferrari as a replacement for Felipe Massa who once again has a question mark looming ominously over his continuation at the Scuderia. Should the 2007 World Champion eventually return to the Italian outfit amid Felipe Massa’s retirement from Formula 1, a whole host of driver changes could reverberate throughout paddock. This would open up a vacancy at Lotus, with Romain Grosjean likely to remain at the Enstone-based outfit should he manage to avoid further incidences.
The question forming on everyone’s lips should Kimi Raikkonen switch would be who will replace him at Lotus, with many drivers including Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg linked to the outfit. Although the former would undoubtedly perform well at Lotus, he is currently remaining incredibly faithful to Williams, stating to NBCSN at the Belgian Grand Prix: “I really want to win the Championship in Williams, before I go to another team.” Although this statement shows his die-hard approach to life as a Williams driver, this surely rules him out of a switch away from the Grove-based outfit.
This leaves German sensation Nico Hulkenberg as the only true candidate to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus, resulting in the 26-year-old competing for a fourth different team in as many seasons. Admittedly this stat hardly makes for good reading, but the Emmerich-born driver is without-a-doubt a future winner in Formula 1, with Lotus quite possibly a team which could provide him with the resources to reach that goal. Nico Hulkenberg’s switch to Lotus makes sense in more ways than is apparent at first, with the poorly kept secret emanating from Switzerland that Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin will race for Sauber next season. With the Hinwil-based outfit strapped for cash, they will be unwilling to let Esteban Gutierrez’s Mexican Peso’s from Telmex slip away.
With Kimi Raikkonen surprisingly back at Ferrari, Nico Hulkenberg rearing to go at Lotus and Sauber worryingly fronted by the youngest pairing most likely ever witnessed in the history of Formula 1 (Gutierrez is 22 and Sirotkin only 18), who will become the next Red Bull hopeful to join Toro Rosso? The answer comes in the form of Portuguese rising star Antonio Felix da Costa, or Antonio Maria Melo Breyner Felix da Costa to use his full name. Many will remember him from his spell in the GP3 Series with Carlin and Status Grand Prix, which eventually culminated with three victories and six podiums in 2012 which saw him finish 3rd overall.
With one victory and three podiums already secured in the highly competitive Formula Renault 3.5 Series with Arden Caterham so far this season, the Red Bull-backed youngster is clearly a future potential in Formula 1 and is likely to tread the same golden steps that Sebastian Vettel and now Daniel Ricciardo have done before. The future Champions of Formula 1 are steadily finding their feet in the lower categories, with Red Bull evidently both the outfit and the brand currently taking the motorsport world by storm.
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