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?

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  1. Rick (@viscountviktor) said on 27th June 2013, 19:04

    I think Felipe Massa will get the seat, purely on his amazing form recently

  2. Lari (@lari) said on 27th June 2013, 20:57

    Raikkonen will be the most likely choice strictly looking from RBR pov. He has about three more years before he will likely retire, which would give RBR enough time to finetune their young drivers and promote one (or two even if Vettel is to move to Ferrari at some point) to main team. I see Hulkenberg taking Raikkonen’s seat at Lotus if this were to happen. Not sure about the rest, most likely will stay where they are since Toro Rosso and Force India are showing nice progress.

    • I’m hoping Kobayashi can get that seat at Lotus if Kimi moves on. He should have had Grosjean’s seat anyway this year imho. It’s going to be an interesting summer as the speculation increases.

  3. ferrox glideh (@ferrox-glideh) said on 27th June 2013, 21:45

    Is it me, or are there some interesting parallels between Webbers career and Reubens (query).
    Both are notable number two drivers who could have and should have won more often. Both are cooler than their respective German teammates. Thoughts (query).

  4. Teppo T (@drizzit) said on 27th June 2013, 22:11

    Heikki Kovalainen :) He has the experience and could replace webber earlier this season if necessary.

  5. Matt (@hollidog) said on 27th June 2013, 22:50

    Surprised that there isn’t much conversation going on about who will fill the TR seat if one of their boys moves up to the main team. Obviously the money has to be on AFDC, but I think the dark horse could be Mitch Evans. Strong form in GP2 recently and I have heard that he has spent the last couple of weekends in the Red Bull garage listening to their team radio. Also, he lives down the road from Webber and they regularly train together.

    Although personally I think it is not a wise career move for anyone to move into Toro Rosso, seeing as only one (though that could be two by the end of the year) have made the move up to RB, and all the others have left F1 within a couple of years, and not gone anywhere since.

  6. I think yoiu’re forgetting Kimi already has Red Bull ties from his Rallying excursion. His consistent points haul might prove the decider in picking a replacement if they believe Vettel and Kimi can work together. Whoever gets Webbers seat, I hope they’re damn fast and don’t capitulate to Vettel. I’m fed up of seeing him being unchallenged year after year. He needs somebody to bring him back down to earth.

  7. Irejag (@irejag) said on 28th June 2013, 0:16

    F1 Needs a Canadian driver. Robert Wickens, who certainly should be sitting in one of the Toro’s right now. Or James Hinchcliffe. They both have the mental toughness to avoid being bothered by Vettel, and they are both quick drivers.
    I know that most people will disagree, but it would be really nice to see a Canadian on the grid again.

  8. Minardi (@gitanes) said on 28th June 2013, 0:34

    Consider if Renault comes up with a mega engine and provides their customers a decided advantage. Red Bull would do well hiring Raikkonen if only to take away their biggest championship threat in that case.

    But if it was my choice, I’d go with Vergne. If its wet at all, his name is always popping up to the top of the timesheets – so he’s great at finding grip in tough and unpredictable conditions – a good sign. And he does seem to be getting better and better as he gains confidence. Let’s not forget Vettel’s Toro Rosso career started rather slowly. He crashed a lot and was slower than Liuzzi a few times. Just because Jean-Eric hasn’t managed to win the Italian GP by now doesn’t mean he isn’t a potential champion.

    Hulkenberg might be the fastest available driver at the moment but I just don’t see the two Germans “gelling” together in this team. If I were Nico, I might actually prefer a Renault drive to be honest.

  9. AdrianS said on 28th June 2013, 2:01

    I’m surprised how many people are counting out the TR boys. Yes, they’re consistently finishing in the points, but what if their car was actually on par with a Caterham and both TR drivers are actually really good?

    The fact that RB say good things about their TR drivers when history has shown that they are quite critical toward their TR drivers (Bourdais, Alguersuari, Buemi etc.), quite clearly indicates that it’s very likely to be either Ricciardo or JEV.
    I’m putting my money on Ricciardo.
    – He’s extremely mature for a young gun: He’d never been into a barrier in his entire F1 career until Grosjean hit him.
    – He quite comfortably defended from drivers such as Webber and Schumacher for several laps to finish in the points last season.
    – He almost-always out performs his car in qualifying.
    – He knows how to do battle with top drivers: See Austin 2012 where he was amongst the likes of Massa, Button and Raikkonen.
    – According to RB and TR, he’s got a great understanding of technical details.
    Although he’s behind JEV in points, there are many other things that RB and TR see that work in his favour – at the moment anyway.

    • CorranG said on 28th June 2013, 5:10

      Agreed – I think DR will go to RBR, Lotus now have more money thanks to Infinity and will appeal even more to Kimi. He even stated he wouldn’t be back in F1 if Lotus hadn’t catered to his every need, RBR are not going to do that for him when they have a 3x world champion already sitting in their #1 car.

      They want someone who will solidly compete in the RBR car with pace, and is consistently finishing races. DR ticks all the boxes, if its not him then why have TR? Vergne has pace and aggression, but lacks in other areas – RBR want someone they can rely on, DR is it for me. His attitude and personality is just a bonus for them! ;)

  10. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 28th June 2013, 8:11

    Personally I’m rooting for Hulkenberg, in my view he is the most talented guy out there not in a top team. B Di resta has done really well this year, but was outshone by Nico last year, I can not help but wonder what Force India might have achieved this year had Nico stayed.

    As for Kimi, I must admit he is the most likely candidate, but I personally Love the Kimi Lotus combination, and their underdog status, so I’m really hoping he’ll stay. They might have lost Allison, but with the oil money infusion they hve potential for next year.

    The torro rosso duo are not impressive enough in my view, I might be wrong, but although both are good drivers, neither one has that little something extra that guys like Alonso, Hamilton, Kimi and Vettel have.

    I would love it if they put Felix Da Costa in the car though, although guys like Stoffel Vandoorne and Robin Frijns are more deserving in my oppinion, putting Da costa in the seat would shake things up a bit. I would compare it to the interteam battle at Honda in Motogp right now between Pedrosa and rookie Marquez :)

  11. Howard (@howard) said on 28th June 2013, 15:35

    I can see Di Resta trolling and having a big whinge why he wasn’t asked if he would like the Red Bull seat!

    This guy’s self righteous arrogance see’s no boundaries.

  12. James (@speedking84) said on 21st July 2013, 18:51

    Jean-Eric Vergne, last year he finished ahead of Ricciardo in the championship and is ahead of Ricciardo currently. I can’t see Raikkonen driving for Red Bull, I think he would prefer a number one seat at Lotus than a number two seat at Red Bull. Vergne seems to be the best option, I personally think Ricciardo is overrated, he’s a great qualifier but Vergne seems to be the better race driver.

    • Sorry James, but according to Red Bull it’s just between Ricciardo and Räikkonen at this point.

      • James (@speedking84) said on 21st July 2013, 21:05

        I found that out on BBC sport, it’s a shame for Vergne, but I think Ricciardo has great potential but I personally thought that Vergne was a better race driver than Ricciardo. I think whatever happens it would be better for Red Bull to choose Ricciardo because Kimi is probably going to retire in a few years so they’ll have to choose a new driver anyway, and Vettel may move teams after 2014, so I think they should get a driver that will be a long term driver, it would be a shame if Red Bull let Ricciardo waste more years in an uncompetitive car.

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