Robin Frijns wasn’t involved in any driver development program, though, Vandoorne is backed by McLaren. There might have been contractual difficulties if he moved to Toro Rosso as well, since Driver Development deals typically are contracts either based on results or up for yearly renewal. Besides, McLaren has a pretty good track record with Lewis Hamilton; Red Bull not so much with Bernoldi, Klien, Liuzzi, Speed, Jaime Cantspellhislastname or Buemi. Frijns was foolish because it was his only realistic option; Vandoorne gets to train with and work with one of the most experienced teams in F1 already.
Besides, Vandoorne is a rookie as well. We saw how erratic Frijns was in GP2, Vandoorne could probably do with another season of FR 3.5.
About Hulkenberg: I can’t help but think teams might not be too happy with Heinz’ revelations lately. Ferrari isn’t too transparent about driver deals, while it typically isn’t a good strategy to say ‘we’re talking to x amount of teams’, I remember Verstappen’s manager saying that a lot, much like other drivers who always had a seat in F1 until someone with more money came along (Petrov being a recent example). It does show Ferrari were very serious about replacing Massa, though; having two contracts ready to be signed. I think they went for the short-term, since they know Alonso isn’t going to stay forever (regardless of the turmoil rumors Eddie Jordan seems to get off on) and they might need to focus on 2014-2016 for success before people’s heads start rolling.
About Kovalainen: Feeder series are about showing promise; it’s true Kovalainen showed a lot, but in his 6 seasons of F1 he didn’t deliver on it. He was the best of the poor teams, but he was up against Jarno Trulli, who never had good race pace (apart from a few times with Prost, Renault and Toyota) and was clearly not on the same level as 2009 (endlessly complaining about power steering instead) in Caterham, and they had an edge over Virgin/Marussia up until early 2013 (for a while). Against Petrov he looked good, but their results weren’t that far apart and Petrov looked to have the upper hand in the last couple of races. Petrov isn’t exactly considered to be a front-running driver either.
I think the thing about Kovalainen is; he is a likable guy, who keeps out of trouble and had an edge over his teammates, apart from Hamilton. He didn’t manage a result to keep Caterham from sacking him for a pay driver, though. I think van der Garde and Pic can still grow into better drivers than Kovalainen, and can be kept for the long term. Kovalainen is a driver like Sutil; a known quantity and not a bad driver, but not exactly a Jenson Button waiting for his BGP001 either.