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. Mads (@mads) said on 27th June 2013, 15:52

    I think it’s going to be Hulkenberg. Kimi is a stronger driver, but he doesn’t seem like a guy who would fit in at Red Bull. They are just so different.

    I don’t think either of the TR drivers are good enough to deserve a seat.
    They need more time. Both of them. TR can give them that. But Red Bull will want a driver who is top notch from the day he signs the contract.
    It would simply be the stupidest thing in the world if they signed a driver, hoping he would get better, but he doesn’t. That could potentially cost them a WCC or even a WDC. Hulkenberg seems like a safer bet in my opinion.

    Some might say that their driver development program has therefore failed, but I don’t think so. Red Bull is a championship wining team, right at the top of their game. No one deserves a seat there unless they can deliver. A driver program isn’t meant to get all the drivers into top teams, or even their own team. Its a chance for the team to have control of some of the new talents, and if they are good enough it will be easier to channel them into vacant seats. It’s also much easier to evaluate a driver from your own development program. But ultimately it’s there to give the team a long term advantage over the others. Not as a golden ticket for a lucky chap to get into a seat he doesn’t deserve.

    • Guilherme (@guilherme) said on 27th June 2013, 18:10

      @mads agree 100%! When Vettel moved from Toro Rosso do Red Bull he was a race winner with numerous top 5 finishes. While I understand that today is it is harder for Toro Rosso to be competitive like that, we haven’t seen either Ricciardo or Vergne setting the world on fire. They are good drivers, and certainly would deserve a better team, but a Red Bull? Not sure about that.

      Hulkenberg has shown more than the Toro Rosso pair. He and Raikkonen are far better options in my opinion.

  2. Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 27th June 2013, 16:00

    I think Michael Schumacher would be a good choice; just for one year.

  3. Red Bull-Vodtka PR for Kimi next season then?

  4. Well Raikkonen has just today admitted that he has only two choices for next year, and they are Lotus and RB. In the interview he has done with Finnish media (in Finnish) he said that you would have to be kind of stupid for not considering to drive for a top team that has won both of the championships recently, a few times in a row. He confirmed that he is in talks with “someone” but pointed out there is no point to talk about these things in more detail upon signing anything. He said that to be up there in the front everyone wants to be in the best car possible to be able to have the best shot at winning the WDC.
    He also said that he would rather sign the contract for next year sooner than later but pointed out anything can happen in F1 and that there are a lot of very small things and details to discuss with all of the contracts and if the small things are not to his liking he said that then the deal might not happen.

  5. Finnish TV interviewed Kimi about Red bull seat. Here is a quick and dirty translation of key points from Kimi:
    - It is very difficult not to be interested of a team that has won both championships for several years in a row, but that does not mean he would not be interested in continuing with Lotus. You always try to get you the best car you can, it is the only way to succeed in F1.

    - No contract has been made, they have talked with few people about it, the most important things in contract for him are some little details that may sound stupid to other people. He would have the contract sooner than later so people would stop bugging him about it.

  6. No confest said on 27th June 2013, 16:25

    It would be a risk for RB to get RAI. If VET and RAI were allowed to race, it’s possible Kimi would beat Seb more often than Webber did. Alonso might end up winning WDC. Then again, maybe he deserves it.

    For the audience though, Kimi and Seb in Red Bull would be very interesting and definitely entertaining.

  7. Tiago Carvalho (@tiagocomodoro) said on 27th June 2013, 16:33

    I think none of us has a close idea of winch driver will have that seat, anything can happen.

  8. Pandaslap (@pandaslap) said on 27th June 2013, 16:42

    I don’t buy the “RB should promote a TR driver to prove the value of the driver development program” argument. TR exists to promote the Red Bull brand and to provide a platform for developing promising drivers at the top level. Let’s not forget that Vettel won in a TR at Monza… TR doesn’t have to consistently be developing top-tier talent in order to justify its continued existence – one triple world champion might be sufficient.

    Therefore, I think Kimi is the best choice. RB clearly doesn’t have any fear of competition amongst its drivers and Kimi provides them with the best chance to win championships. Also, should a Vettel to Ferrari scenario play out, having a top driver already in the team would be advantageous.

  9. Just strictly from Red Bull’s perspective I do think Kimi is the obvious choice. They already have the package to win the drivers championship so by adding consistently solid points scores to the package they would become even more certain about the contructors’ championship as well. It would also give them better security in case Vettel leaves at some point than one of the “rookier” drivers. Whether you love or hate Kimi it is hard to argue that he is the most valuable of the currently available drivers.

    I think the main question is if Kimi would do it. To a large extent money talks and combined with a more likely race winning car the only real obstacle I can see is the risk of becoming second fiddle. However, I do think Kimi is confident enough to not let it bother him. Though I would personally like to see Kimi as double champion I am not sure I would like to see it in a Red Bull but I think it is highly likely as none of the parties have more attractive options.

  10. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend) said on 27th June 2013, 17:13

    There’s only one man. Kimi Raikonnen. Fast, image fits well with red bulls brand profile, old enough to allow the young guns at toro Rosso to mature a bit more and to provide cover should vettel go to another team ( Ferrari)

  11. Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 27th June 2013, 17:15

    I think Ricciardo might get the seat, with Da Costa moved up into Torro Rosso. After being with Mclaren and Ferrari, and collecting vasts amounts of money in the process, I think Kimi would see it as too much hassle.

  12. Hypothetical scenario.
    If Kimi were to leave Lotus, that would leave them as the only top team without a top driver. Unless somehow Kubica made a miraculous recovery and/or Grosjean bounced back later this year, either scenario being very unlikely. They could start next year with Grosjean and Valsecchi, but that would simply be a repeat of 2011 and one of them could very well get the boot. Honestly, I don’t think Grosjean could even make it to the end of this year if he keeps driving like the way he is now, Valsecchi might end up getting a race seat next year.
    Lotus will eventually have to look for another driver and I could see Hulkenberg filling that seat. He’s consistently quick and fairly experienced and as of now unaffiliated with any team. That would lead to an empty seat at Sauber and this is where it gets interesting. Sauber already has Frijns, but they might wait and see how his GP2 campaign will end and then there’s Bianchi and Bottas.

    I personally think that it’s between Raikkonen and either Toro Rosso drivers with Hulkenberg as the wildcard. Di Resta has been good so far this year, but they already have access to two very decent drivers in the Toro Rosso pair while Bottas and Da Costa are far too green.

  13. Avi Bisht said on 27th June 2013, 17:23

    i want Kimi there to end the dominance of Vettel .
    It’ll be interesting to see how vettel copes with this challenge and we get the better measurements of his driving ability. i dont rate vettel as high as the other triple world champions and Kimi’s move can prove me right.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 29th June 2013, 0:00

      Or prove you wrong. It’s kind of tiring to see people who obviously must rate Webber so low, that he can be beaten so badly, yet Raikkonen can not only do better than Mark, but also somehow beat Vettel. Plus, Raikkonen has been up against Massa (who beat him) and Grosjean.

  14. Jorge Lardone (@jorge-lardone) said on 27th June 2013, 17:30

    I think Jean-Eric Vergne is a good option. He is fast, young and can be a good driver Nº2, with future.

  15. JackySteeg (@jackysteeg) said on 27th June 2013, 18:46

    Silly season is starting early this year!

    All this makes me wonder what would’ve happened if Webber made this decision 12 months ago. How would the world have reacted if Hamilton’s McLaren contract was expiring at the same time a Red Bull seat became available?

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