Red Bull to confirm Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber's replacement for 2014 season?
Raikkonen's manager confirms Finn now out of running
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 19/08/13 5:30pm
Red Bull will announce Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber's replacement for the 2014 season at this weekend's Belgian GP, according to reports in Germany.
Bild newspaper, which broke the news of Toto Wolff's departure from Williams to Mercedes earlier this year, claims that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has made the decision to promote Ricciardo from junior team Toro Rosso to partner World Champion Sebastian Vettel next season.
The reports have gained further credence after the manager of Kimi Raikkonen, the only other driver seriously in the frame for the seat, confirmed in the Finnish press that the 2007 World Champion was now out of the running.
"The negotiations with Red Bull were not successful and ended some time ago," Steve Robertson, Raikkonen's manager, was quoted as confirming by Finnish publication Turun Sanomat.
Although Lotus driver Raikkonen had been installed as the favourite to replace Webber following the Australian's announcement he would quit F1 at the end of the season, Ricciardo has impressed in recent months - particularly in qualifying - and performed creditably when he piloted the RB9 during last month's Young Driver Test, lapping just a couple of tenths shy of Vettel's fastest time.
Critically, the Toro Rosso youngster's promotion would also be an endorsement of Red Bull's Young Driver Programme, from which Vettel himself graduated before winning the first of his three World Championships.
Were Red Bull to confirm Ricciardo at Spa - the venue for a host of driver line-up announcements over the years - then it would serve to open up the driver market for 2014, with the annual merry-go-round currently in stasis awaiting the World Champions' selection.
Raikkonen is out of contract with Lotus at the end of the season and has been repeatedly linked in recent weeks with a return to Ferrari. Although the Scuderia have scoffed at the rumours, the Finn continues to be touted as a potential replacement for the struggling Felipe Massa.