Ricciardo to HRT (no need for a question mark)

There will be two Australian Grand Prix drivers at Silverstone. Daniel Ricciardo (22) will be joining Mark Webber in the World Championship, and will be seen alongside Tonio Liuzzi in the HRT team, presumably thanks to an input of financial support for the nominally-Spanish team from Red Bull. He will replace Narain Karthikeyan, although one must assume that the Indian will stay with the team and will pop up again when F1 goes to India in the autumn.

What happens at HRT is pretty unimportant in the overall scheme of things, but it is fascinating that Red Bull, which has four cars in F1 has chosen a fifth to train up its hot young driver. The implication is that there is an apparently urgent need for Ricciardo to get F1 racing mileage. There has been speculation for a long time that either Sebastien Buemi or Jaime Alguersuari would be dropped to make way for Ricciardo, but as they are equal on points it is hard to fire one or the other without criticism. However, if Ricciardo was going to go to Scuderia Toro Rosso next year, then a sacrifice would have been made as it is pointless to go on with the man who is going to be dropped. Thus the only logical conclusion is that there is another job for Ricciardo elsewhere in the future, which requires as much training up as possible in the time available… And one wonders where that might be?

However, it may be that there will be more rumours now about Mark Webber going off to Ferrari…

50 thoughts on “Ricciardo to HRT (no need for a question mark)

  1. Webber at Ferrari would mean trading Massa for someone no more competitive yet older and less ambicious.

  2. Massa will be at Ferrari next year, end of story. I don’t have sources, but I have convictions.

    If Ricciardo indeed moves to RedBull, Webber will either move to Renault (to replace Kubica) or retire or replace Schumacher if the latter calls it a day.

    No matter what happens, Webber has to stay in F1 because he’s the only driver with the whole package off the car (mouth, balls & brain).

  3. So Joe, will we see attractive Red Bull livery on the HRTs. This should be a big boost for the team, right? Narain was on the bottom end of the timesheets anyway and now I guess Liuzzi will suddenly appear mediocre in presence of Ricciardo?

    But will the Tata branding continue? Tata would continue to be supporting the team if the company wants to see Narain in the car for the Indian GP. This musical chairs seems to be a regular phenomenon at HRT every year! But this particular driver change is likely to do a world of good for the team. If Ricciardo performs well I don’t see Narain returning, whom I’m sure no one would particularly miss.

  4. Webber’s a Renault driver. But then, didn’t Joe link Flavio to Ferrari the other day… ?

    (apologies if it wasn’t you, Joe, but I certainly read something the other day linking him to the red team and you’re usually the one drawing such bows!)

    1. Jean Spiteri,

      What do you want? The source or the news?

      Don’t mistake the difference between a blog and a news website. And wait for an announcement…

      I’ll bet your house on it…

  5. Jo Torrent, just a pity Webber isnt delivering where it really matters – in the car! Amazing to find out during last GP that he hasnt led a single lap this year – shocker!

  6. I see no reason why Ricciardo couldn’t still go to Torro Rosso next year. It seems reasonable that they could still be weighing their options between Buemi and Alguersuari to partner him but they want to get him some milage and HRT needs the cash.

  7. So if Ricciardo is set for Webber’s spot, then the implication is that neither STR guys are good enough? Then why not get rid of both of them then at the same time then, and get Liuzzi and Ricciardo in the STRs and let HRT have Buemi and Algusari ..

  8. So, the rumour was true! Everything is unpredictable in F1, except that Vettel will be WC and Valencia GP boring

  9. Sadly Joe I suspect your last sentance had a few too many words and should have read: “However, it may be that there will be more rumours now about Mark Webber going off…”

    I would miss him from the paddock, but its hard to see where he’d go.

  10. Webber at Ferrari fits on a lot of levels. Experienced, steady and intelligent in the car, articulate out of it, managed by future team principal Flav (ugh), and perhaps most crucially mates with Alonso — someone who can presumably race with Alonso without acrimony, and beat him from time to time with all toys remaining firmly secured inside pram. It’s even conceivable that he could stick around for another five years and partner Alonso through 2016.

    As for Massa… not many options, are there? Williams and Renault don’t have the money, Mercedes and McLaren presumably locked up, Force India will presumably go with Hulkenberg and DiResta unless Schumacher calls for pipe and slippers.

    Replacing Trulli at Lotus could work (could work quite nicely, actually, given the increased budget and the general unstoppability of Gascoyne/Fernandes.) Massa probably has five years of racing left in him — it’s certainly possible for Lotus to be contending for championships in that time.

  11. It would be interesting to know who within the Red Bull racing management was able to make contact with “someone” within HRT and make such a deal?
    Would it have been the good Doctor Marko and Colin Kolles? Or would Christian Horner been handed the job?
    It makes the mind boggle when you read about the inept ways HRT are portrayed when referring to the Carabante part of HRT

  12. Seems rather pointless maintaining a Toro Rosso team as a Red Bull development camp if they don’t want either driver to be promoted to the main team when Webber leaves.

    Is this why Horner is so obviously sign-posting Webber is re-signing, even when Webber keeps saying he’s not sure yet? Is it a Horner jab to get Webber to either say yes or expect a younger Australian in his seat very soon?

    I don’t know enough about the politics in F1 to say but I assume when a team principal says ‘It’s very, very likely X will sign for next year’ it’s really a coded warning to other teams to back off their signing, or a coded warning to the driver to get on with it either way.

  13. It would be a lot better to find out Flav has been visiting Ferrari to negotiate a Webber deal than to see him get some role at Ferrari himself.

    So will it be Red Bull cans replacing the cool space, I hope they do a nice job to fit that in with the livery.

    Also I saw others bringing up the issue of Kolles getting less involved in the running of the team again. Any news on that, Joe (like the RBR money being used to pay him, or indeed the banks)?

    1. BasCB,

      It probably was that, but… some folk in FOMland would like to see His Flavship in Maranello. I don’t understand it myself.

  14. I think I saw Live Timing during the end stages of Valencia GP showing Karthikeyan running last with a 94sec gap to his teammate 1 position ahead of him. That gap with a lap time of around 100sec… his teammate was about to lap him!

  15. I was surprised by this news. Firstly that RedBull decided to pay for Ricciardo to race the HRT, and secondly that it’s Narain that gets dumped. He’s obviously slow, it’s the fact that it’s his sponsor who pays the bills

    Are Tata reducing their financial contribution to HRT and RedBull picking up the tab instead, or is it double bubble for HRT? If Tata continue to fund the team, aren’t they effectively admitting that NK is a bit crap and they know it? Considering how long they’ve backed NK that’s a shock. Or do they have grander plans to bring Jaguar back to the grid?

    Be interesting to see how Ricciardo compares with Luizzi, who I think has had a great season to date.

    As or Webber, I think he’ll be at RBR next year. I don’t see any better options for either party (unless Lewis does the unthinkable and walks away from McMerc)

  16. To question this move even further, is this to also see whether its relevant to keep Toro Rosso even going or just sell it up? There have been rumours for a long time this is the case, there is no point having a team if the two drivers in the team while capable don’t appear to set the world on fire and not worth hiring for the main team. Along with the fact that Red Bull has to put money into developing a separate car that is never really going to be constantly in the top 10. Its just a waste in the end, I guess it would be hard to find a buyer for a team these days but just maybe there is some interest and you get two established drivers that will being home solid results (while not amazing) with what seems a well organised small team.

  17. Should be character building for Riccardo, going from testing the best car at the end of last year, to driving a mid field car during P1 this year, to racing a car at the back of the field. All good experience, I hope through HRT he can demonstrate that he is the real deal.

  18. Only thoughts but wish to share with you=> Since STR has been sold to the AABAR group there might be the possible reason for Flavio to get involved in the new project: Based in Faenza/IT in co-operation with Ferrari motor and technical support, they could either attend the Arabians and/or the American’s interests, seeking for more power and money. Briatore could gather the key personal from winning team of previous years that are leaving Renault now. Remember that LdM mentioned that Ferrari could support an American F1 team racing under the stars and stripes, forming the NART STR-Ferrari Team with Buemi and Jonathan Summerton (Based in Faenza/IT + Charlotte/US).
    On the other hand, that might explain why Marko has negotiated with HRT now to get a drive for Ricciardo. Perhaps with part of the money, they could turn the HRT as their Junior team => Tata HRT with drivers Alguersuari and Ricciardo.

  19. I think Joe has it exactly right. It’s almost a no-lose situation for Ricciardo. Much as I like Karthikeyan the car has consistently been running last, so if Daniel can move it up a place or two, and especially beat Liuzzi he will have proved a point. Even if he just goes faster, relatively speaking, than Narain, it will be noticed and most of all he will have had race mileage.

  20. Joe – Sorry for being off-topic, but…….What’s the latest news on the Gribkowsky case? The media seem to have gone pretty silent on this subject lately. Is this silence connected to the rumored and much denied (which of course we all know means its gonna happen) sale of F1 to the Fox/Exor consortium? The truth, if it ever surfaces, of the Gribkowsky case will almost certainly be bad for the image and brand value of F1, no?

  21. If Ricciardo makes the field (107% still applies so no guarantee) then it will be the first time 2 Australians have been on the F1 grid to start a race since Austria 1977.

  22. And he will still be racing in Formula Renault 3.5:

    “Besides his commitment to Formula 1 the Australian will also continue to fight for victories and points in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series as a Red Bull Junior.”


    The only F1 race that conflicts with a Formula Renault 3.5 race is the Japanese Grand Prix on October 9, which is the same date as the last Formula Renault race for 2011.

  23. Red Bull are about to sell STR and they have targeted HRT as their next partner. This is what I can gather from these events.

    Red Bull bought the Jaguar team, TATA owns the Jaguar brand, coincidence? Possibly.

    But if RB do manage to offload STR and effectively take on HRT as a junior team, maybe a return of the Jaguar name to F1 might be a reality.

  24. Dear Joe,

    My great friend and I (as you might know him NJB) are currently sitting holed up in a swish Beirut hotel reading your blog on the eve of his wedding day.

    I just wanted to add a quick note to say thank you for the many incredible insightful recent posts you’ve written.

    We just wanted to inform you that you’re the last bastion of class in the increasingly moribund world of F1 journalism.

    Thank you so much and keep it up.

    MEF and NJB. Beirut. July 2011.

  25. The last time two Australians started a race in Formula 1 was the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix which was won by Alan Jones. The second Australian entry, Vern Schuppan, placed 16th.

    It is unusual because the win was so unexpected that the Grand Prix organisers did not have the Australian anthem on hand, so instead ‘happy birthday’ was played over the PA system. It is also the only time the Shadow team won a race.

    I am super excited for Ricciardo but I don’t like the sinister implications it may have for Webber – I hope that it simply means due to Alguesuari and Buemi being inseperable so far this year that STR just wants to see Ricciardo in a car doing Grand Prix laps without having to make a tough decision about their drivers.

  26. In Daniel Ricciardo’s home state of Western Australia, this news occupies all of the back page of the newspaper. The sports writers (it took two of ’em) relate that Ricciardo received the news of his appointment by phone from Red Bull “team principal Helmut Marko”.

  27. Very bizarre. Just how many drivers have RB funded since they started backing Sauber in ’95? Must be at least in the high teens or twenties, possibly in the hundreds. The only driver they’ve ever had a problem paying for was Kimi, and that was cause they wanted to chuck money at Christian Klien instead!
    Perhaps Dieter Mateschitz could use the HRT team as a junior junior Red Bull team, and rename it Toro Rojo! 😀

  28. That would depend on where he is positioned in the Renault championship. If he has a chance at winning it, why not skip Japan?

    1. Tom,

      Look at the bigger picture. What is the purpose of winning the Renault championship? To get to F1. If one is already in F1, one does not need to win the championship any longer. Better to gain the experience of a Japanese circuit.

  29. To people asking if Tata will remove their sponsorship from the HRT because Karthikeyan has gone, I’d very much doubt it. Ricciardo may not be Indian but as the driver tipped to take a Red Bull seat in the future I’d bet his car (and therefore TATA’s advertising) gets a fair bit more coverage over F1 weekends.

  30. I don’t understand why Webber would move from a number 2 spot that is undercover at Red Bull to definite enforced number 2 spot at Ferrari that is blatant. Mark has done everything except win a world title. He cannot do that at Ferrari when Alonso is well established as Number 1. Maybe if Renault got serious about winning again that could the the chance he needs.

  31. Nice news for Ricciardo.
    Could a reason for him getting a race(apart form the 2012 scenario) be to further justify kicking an STR driver? If he is proven in a race there would be no question marks at all right?
    I would love this to be the beginning of a way out scenario of Red Bull selling their share of STR to Tata(why they don’t care about the NK thing) and Red Bull use their money to finance drivers across the field like Buemi, Jaime etc. They’d be a Marlboro of the 21st century(I think this is apt considering their product is also questionable health wise)

  32. I recall Scott Speed being faster and having more points than his teammate, yet was axed first. Buemi and Alguesari haven’t really been at all that impressive amongst their fellow under 25 drivers on grid. Perhaps they’ll ultimately keep Jaime for DJ-ing Red Bull F1 parties? It pays to have several skills in these harsh economic times.

  33. Benjamin, Red Bull is questionable health wise, sure. I don’t think tobacco is questionable! They both taste foul..

    Since kids love f1, maybe they should take a stand not advertise anything containing sugar or additives.

    Good to see D Riccardo in F1, hopefully the powers that be will let him win the drivers championship. Australian, Austrian, whatever.

    Don’t forget, only an Aussie could win the drivers championship with his own car/team (Brabham). Maybe that is Mark W’s only chance left!!

    I would love to see Ron Dennis, Flavio etc strap on a helmet and have a go.. or Eddie Jordan!

    Or instead of a spec car, a spec driver.. Perhaps thats what McLaren are working on in that big factory…

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