Who will replace Webber at Red Bull in 2014?

Debates and Polls

Mark Webber has confirmed he will not race for Red Bull in 2014, leaving a vacancy at one of F1’s top teams.

Red Bull have won the constructors’ championship for the last three years in a row, have the full backing of Renault and the design genius of Adrian Newey. A seat in an RB10 will be coveted by almost every driver on the grid.

But it comes with a string attached – and it’s a big one. It means going up against Sebastian Vettel, winner of the last three drivers’ championships. Aside from being brutally fast Vettel wields considerable political clout within Red Bull and is strongly backed by motorsport director Helmut Marko.

Who has the combination of speed and mental toughness to take Webber’s place? Here’s a shortlist of possible candidates.

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2013Only yesterday Christian Horner admitted the 2007 world champion was a potential candidate for the seat. Raikkonen’s two-year Lotus deal expires at the end of this season.

Although Raikkonen has enjoyed success with Lotus, winning two races, he may have grown frustrated at their shortcomings. His own race engineer admitted after the Canadian Grand Prix they had let him down with a series of car problems plus a blunder in the pits.

Red Bull offer greater financial security than Lotus and potentially a better deal for him. He has a good relationship with Vettel. But would this notoriously publicity-averse driver be willing to tolerate an increase in PR and media work that is likely to come with being aligned to Infiniti?

Daniel Ricciardo

Red Bull’s much-vaunted young driver development programme exists to supply new talent to the top team. Red Bull go to the unprecedented lengths of having a second team in F1 serving this purpose. If the programme cannot rise to the occasion it will be seen to have failed.

So there may be internal pressure within Red Bull to promote one of the two Toro Rosso pilots. Daniel Ricciardo began this season with the upper hand over team mate Jean-Eric Vergne.

Jean-Eric Vergne

It turns out Vergne’s career-best sixth place in Canada last week could not have been more timely. It moved him ahead of Ricciardo in the points standings. If he can build on that momentum, perhaps he could do enough to secure promotion to the top team.

Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, Melbourne, 2013Showed potential with both Williams and Force India before this year’s ill-timed switch to Sauber. As well as him being quick, signing Hulkenberg may have the added appeal to Red Bull of disrupting Ferrari’s future plans as he is believed to be on their radar.

Paul di Resta

A former team mate of Vettel’s who beat him to the 2006 F3 Euroseries crown. Di Resta has proven himself to be a solid midfield runner for Force India and the team recently said they would let him go if a top outfit wanted to sign him.

Valtteri Bottas

He’s just seven races into his F1 career but has arguably shown more potential than Ricciardo or Vergne with a remarkable third on the grid in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Antonio Felix da Costa

Six months ago the idea that Red Bull’s development driver Antonio Felix da Costa could ‘do a Hamilton’ and vault straight into a top team might not have seemed so far-fetched. He set the Formula Renault 3.5 scene on fire after his mid-season promotion, winning a string of races.

But his first full season in the championship hasn’t gone to plan so far. He’s won just once and lies third in the championship due to a combination of unreliability and driver error. It’s a situation reminiscent of that experienced by one of his predecessors on the young driver programme: Sebastian Vettel.

Da Costa is more likely to be next in line for a Toro Rosso seat should one of their regulars get Webber’s place.

Over to you

Who do you think will join Vettel at Red Bull next year? Have your say in the comments.

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162 comments on Who will replace Webber at Red Bull in 2014?

  1. Lustigson (@lustigson) said on 27th June 2013, 12:26

    Logic suggests that Red Bull pick either Ricciardo or Vergne, or perhaps Felix da Costa. But the team are in such a luxurious position that they can pick up any driver that is available — at the right price, probably — and forego their own batch.

    So, while I reckon that it’ll be one of the STR crew, it might as well be Di Resta or Hülkenberg. I would be quite surprised to see Räikkönen end up in Milton Keynes.

  2. William (@william) said on 27th June 2013, 12:31

    I hope its Dan or Jean-Eric like people have stated what is even the point of having a ‘Red Bull Sister Team’ when you are not going to elevate them into Infiniti Red Bull. I think Di Resta won’t be going there or even Hulkenberg. Raikkonen is a candidate of winning the seat. I feel like this is the end for Giedo Van Der Garde with Petrov set to race in Russia next year

  3. bsnaylor (@bsnaylor) said on 27th June 2013, 12:34

    Kobayashi!
    Nuff said :)

  4. 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 27th June 2013, 12:36

    Red Bull should sign Hulkenberg… very talented driver who could well end up Ferrari-bound so why not take him, not only does it make RB stronger, it may weaken Ferrari.
    Vettel and Hulkenberg seem to get on alright (until it kicks off on track at some point), Hulkenberg is as good as Webber and will only get better with age. I’d go for that over an ageing Kimi

  5. Yoshisune (@yobo01) said on 27th June 2013, 12:41

    Kimi is a serious candidate, I think. If the car is very good, he can make an effort and do all the media work he has to do. He’s won races in Lotus, but he has a serious chance of winning the championship in a Red Bull.
    But we are having a major rule change next year, maybe Red Bull won’t be competitive from the start. That’s a bit of a risk for Raikkonen, maybe he wants to stay in an environment he knows and he likes.

    The battle in STR is going to be very interesting. If I had to decide between the two, I honestly wouldn’t know who to pick. Sometimes Ricciardo does well, the next race Vergne does the same, and it’s difficult to tell who is going to do a better job in a competitive car.

    I feel that Red Bull has to pick a driver from Toro Rosso. I mean, you can’t throw drivers in F1, expect them to be the next Sebastian Vettel and, if they’re not, kick them out of F1. It seems a bit rude.
    Besides, I think that 2014 will be Da Costa’s debut in F1, even if everyone expected something more from his FR 3.5 season. He’ll probably be in a Toro Rosso. Either they fire Ricciardo or Vergne, or one of them goes to Red Bull.

    Hulkenberg in a Red Bull would be fantastic, but I don’t see that happening, at the moment. I hope he gets a seat in a top team, though. Ferrari wouldn’t be bad.
    As for Di Resta, I don’t think he deserves a place in a top team yet.

  6. hehehehe… I say Fernando ALONSO.. even better… Felipe Massa… He is used to played second school boy and thats what Vettel wants. Thats if Ferrari let him go, if I was Ferrari I would lock him down one more year. It is hard to find 2nd drivers these days.

  7. DavidTyrrell said on 27th June 2013, 12:45

    I can see it being Kimi or DiResta getting the seat but more so Kimi as he’s had connections with Red Bull before. The Toro Rosso guys haven’t, I think, proven themselves enough yet. Although I can see them not having Kimi due to a certain driver who doesn’t want someone who can challenge him on the team.

  8. QuantumForce42 (@quantumforce42) said on 27th June 2013, 12:49

    JEVv over Ricc
    Di Resta is a no no
    Kimi is fine..
    Hulk might do better though..
    Bottas should try Merc/Sauber maybe..

  9. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 27th June 2013, 12:55

    One way or another, they’re going to have to find a way to get Felix da Costa in next year. That means one of the STR drivers either leaves, or goes to Red Bull (maybe even another team, which would be a first).

    If I had to guess, it’s going to be whoever comes out on top out of those two drivers, as I see more decent results coming out of STR this year. And I think that will be Daniel Ricciardo.

  10. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 27th June 2013, 13:02

    Hard one.
    I would welcome one of Red Bull’s youngsters. And it would fit their program.

    Would Hamilton do ‘a Button’ (Williams-Honda move)?

  11. I have a feeling Raikkonen’s potential move to Red Bull will depend in majority of what happens with Lotus in the next 6 months. Respectively of the financial situation at Enstone and whether they can recover from the current slump or not. Raikkonen might feel at home with Lotus and they might be the perfect team for him at the moment, but if they don’t give him a car he can seriously challenge for the title or at least for constant wins with, or if they won’t be able to pay his salary, I truly think Raikkonen will move on. Red Bull might be a PR nightmare for any driver and of course he’ll have to put up with Seb as a team mate, but they have the best car on the grid, something which translates into (at worst) the second best chance to grab the title, in theory.

    If Red Bull unlock a large sum of money for his salary and make a few small concessions here in there, in order to fit Kimi’s preferences in terms of off-track duties and so on, I think he might go for it. The real question is, do Red Bull really want Kimi as their driver? Because Marko’s random statements don’t really mean anything at the moment.

    If it’s not Kimi, it has to be Ricciardo or Vergne. They need to prove the fact that their academy is sustainable and worthwhile. If they don’t hire a world champion, they almost HAVE to promote internally. Plus, Antonio Felix Da Costa looks set for that second RBR seat in a couple of years, which means they will probably need a transition driver who will accept a short term contract, keep the seat warm while Da Costa is being prepped. And both Ricciardo and Vergne are just that kind of drivers.

    Da Costa is still too young, Bottas is too much of an asset to Williams to let him go after just one year, Da Costa needs to spend at least one or two seasons in a Torro Rosso before jumping in a Red Bull and Hulkenberg isn’t really the kind of driver Red Bull might be looking at.

    I’d love to see what Di Resta can do in a top car, to be honest and I’m rooting for him to get that seat, but my money is split on either Raikkonen or Ricciardo with the latter being the obvious / easiest option.

    Aussie for aussie. :)

  12. Michael Brown (@) said on 27th June 2013, 13:54

    Well it won’t be Raikkonen. Lotus know how to get the best out of him and that’s by not forcing him to do anything he hates. Nico Hulkenberg would be my personal favourite choice, but if they pick a driver other than the Toro Rosso drivers then the team will be seen as a failure.

  13. porridge90210 (@porridge90210) said on 27th June 2013, 14:05

    Nelson Piquet Jr!

  14. ShaBooPi said on 27th June 2013, 14:14

    How about Alonso?? I’d like to see him in the fastest car for once. But of the list you mentioned HHulkenberg is definitely best.

  15. Ben (@benchuiii) said on 27th June 2013, 14:17

    Won’t Kimi be the oldest driver when Webber leaves?

  16. Merv (@) said on 27th June 2013, 14:18

    As a Kimi and Enstone fan, I really hope Kimi stays where he is for a little while longer.

    With my biased view, it’s easy to see RB need to promote a TR driver to a “full works drive”. If they don’t do that, then it’s proof that their own young driver programme along with TR is not a route to RB.

    By the end of the year, Vettel will have done 5 seasons at RB, that’s how long it’s taken for a seat to become available. Can the TR drivers really be expected to plod around in the bridesmaid’s car for another 5 years?

    Ricciardo has impressed pretty much since his debut, JEV may have just picked up his game (you can bet Phil Charles has played a big part in that), it’s a good chance for RB to bring in new talent and be seen as the good guys again.

  17. Rigi (@rigi) said on 27th June 2013, 14:22

    RAI – i hope not, i like him a lot and a move to red bull (which i don’t like) would probably lead me to not liking him. besides, it’s been explained that he is in a very comfortable situation at lotus, why leave it behind?
    RIC or JEV – my guess is that they’ll end up going for the seat, whoever does better throughout the year will mist likely get the seat at rbr and the other one will get sacked. as of now, JEV would be the better candidate.
    HUL – now that he’s signed with a team he can’t show his potential in, it’s not going to happen i’m afraid.
    DIR – why is everyone so hyped up about him? i don’t understand it. hasn’t had a single podium finish throughout his career so far, don’t get me wrong; he’s a good driver, but not good enough for red bull
    BOT – like hulkenberg, can’t show his potential in his current car, so probably not.
    DAC – (<- stands for da costa) he'll most likely end up at toro rosso next year, can't see how they'd explain a promotion for him to red bull and not for one of the current toro rosso drivers.

    in the end, i'd like someone who can challenge everyone's favourite german fingerboy.

  18. djdaveyp85 (@djdaveyp87) said on 27th June 2013, 14:22

    Paul Di Resta deserves a shot, but I’m certain they’ll keep promoting drivers from Toro Rosso so it’s unlikely.

  19. Fixy (@fixy) said on 27th June 2013, 14:39

    would this notoriously publicity-averse driver be willing to tolerate an increase in PR and media work that is likely to come with being aligned to Infiniti?

    Or, would Red Bull be willing to give more freedom to Kimi just to have him in their team? I would, Kimi is still one of the best drivers out there and he would do a great job in that car.

  20. Tomsk (@tomsk) said on 27th June 2013, 14:40

    I’d just like to see a big surprise, like we had last year with Hamilton, and particularly Perez going to McLaren.

    Vergne’s recently raised his game so strikingly that I can’t help wonder if he’s already had some good news, or at least a new incentive.

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