After announcing his retirement from Formula 1 at the British Grand Prix this weekend, David Coulthard heaped praise on up and coming Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel saying he, “has everything a future F1 winner needs.”
Vettel has long been tipped to take Coulthard’s seat at Red Bull. Coulthard’s words of praise probably were a realistic indication of where Vettel will be driving next year, rather than a guilty act of charity towards the driver he took out of the race at Silverstone.
If Vettel does leave Toro Rosso, who will fill the gap he leaves at the team in 2009?
Bruno Senna, nephew of the late Ayrton Senna and scourge of the Istanbul canine population, is second in the GP2 championship for iSport. He won at Silverstone in heavy wet conditions last weekend and also triumphed at Monte-Carlo, both of which attracted inevitable comparisons with his uncle.
Senna has been linked with Toro Rosso before. Team boss Gerhard Berger has said of him:
With his victory in Monaco, Senna moved into the field of vision, but a driver from the Red Bull sphere would be logical.
So who are the other drivers from the Red Bull stable who could take the seat?
Jani is a Red Bull man and was test driver for the team for a while. After racing in Champ Car last year he switched to A1 Grand Prix and almost single-handedly won the title for Switzerland.
But he’s been on the outskirts of Formula 1 for a while and his chance of getting a seat may have passed. But if one of the bigger teams gets Senna’s name on a contract first he has a chance of landing the Toro Rosso drive.
Other Red Bull junior drivers
Red Bull has an enormous driver development schemes with talent in GP2, World Series by Renault, various Formula Three and Formula Renault championships, and more besides.
Portuguese Filipe Albuquerque impressed in A1 Grand Prix over the winter. He’s already confirmed to do another year in 2008/09, but the overlap with a Formula 1 campaign would be minimal. The next season’s A1 cars, based on the 2004 Ferrari, wil be much closer to F1 performance than their predecessors.
Another Red Bull-backed A1 star is Canadian Robert Wickens. The 19 year-old won his ninth race in the category, and is currently in World Series by Renault where he has also won this year. He has made some errors of inexperience, however – such as causing a crash at the A1 Durban round by driving against the flow of traffic!
Is Romain Grosjean a candidate?
A Renault Driver Development graduate with Formula Three Euroseries and GP2 Asia titles to his name. Grosjean probably has a decent chance of landing a Renault drive next year, perhaps replacing the unimpressive Nelson Piquet Jnr.
But Renault have proved reluctant to put rookies in their cars straight out of GP2 (where Grosjean currently races). Instead of leaving him to test for a year, which seemed to instil a race-rustiness in Heikki Kovalainen and Piquet Jnr, perhaps they could place him with a junior team? Toro Rosso is Red Bull’s junior team, and Red Bull use Renault engines.
Who do you think should or would get the Toro Rosso seat next year?