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. 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. :)

  2. 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.

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

    Nelson Piquet Jr!

  4. 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.

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

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Jorge H. (@kobe08) said on 27th June 2013, 14:43

    Felix Da Costa would be awesome! But i seriously doubt that possibility. (Go Felix! Go Portugal!) :D
    Kimi would be great even if I’m not a RB suporter… but then what happens to Vettel? Will he be crushed by Kimi’s speed? Kimi’s RB connections puts him in the pole for the seat but I’m sure e won’t “do a Webber”. I simply won’t!

  12. Jason (@jason12) said on 27th June 2013, 14:56

    Kimi is the obvious choice.

    The culture is very relaxed at RBR (same as Lotus), and they’ve got the best car.
    Seems like a WIN WIN situation to me.

  13. Kobayashi all the way!

  14. I said this would happen back in April just after the Malaysian gp.
    Raikkonen has had very strong links with Red Bull since 2001 and probably before… The only thing that might deny him a seas is his age. Red Bull are possibly going to want a younger driver so they can get at least 5 years out of him. With Raikkonen being 33, they will get 5 years out of him at the maximum if he doesn’t get bored of F1 before that. But if they give him the same deal as Webber (1 year rolling contract), I can see him singing right away with the promise of being champion again whatever the team try to do with regards to team orders.

    Who will drive for Lotus when Raikkonen moves? Will they take on Nico Hulkenberg or Paul Di Resta? Or someone else?

  15. Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 27th June 2013, 15:40

    Kimi Raikkonen will turn 35 next year. If RB hire him he will be a stop-gap solution and probably hired on a one year contract. That’s the biggest reason they may not go for hm. On the plus side he’d offer the nearest like-to-like replacement for Webber – without all the Webber baggage and drama and attitude.

    But I’d prefer to see JEV or Ricciardo get the spot. RB need to understand that comparing every other driver in their young driver program to SV is highly unrealistic and not make perfect the enemy of the good.

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