Daniel Ricciardo only told after Spa that he will replace Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014
Webber welcomes appointment of his countryman
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 05/09/13 3:58pm
The World Champions announced late on Monday evening that the young Australian would succeed his countryman, bringing months of speculation about the identity of Webber's successor to a sudden end.
The timing of the public confirmation caught vast swathes of the F1 press pack by surprise, not least because Christian Horner had assured reporters that an announcement would only be made around the Italian GP while Ricciardo had been adamant in Belgium that a deal hadn't signed.
"In Spa, I still didn't know," the Toro Rosso driver vowed during Thursday's press conference at Monza. "I found out the following Wednesday - just a few days before the announcement. But I can confirm that at Spa I still didn't know."
Having been dogged by questions about his future throughout the summer as speculation intensified he would edge out Kimi Raikkonen to partner Sebastian Vettel in 2014, Ricciardo admitted that he was relieved that Red Bull's decision was now in the public domain.
"It's a relief that there will be no more speculation and dodging questions," he conceded. "Everyone knows what is happening now, including me, which is nice. Obviously I'm very pleased with the news but we have eight more races this year and I am looking forward to giving Toro Rosso a nice farewell."
The performances of Ricciardo, who is yet to finish on the podium during his nascent F1 career, will be closely scrutinised during the remainder of this season and the youngster is under no illusions about the size of the challenge that awaits him next year when he is pitted into combat against Vettel.
"I'd love to be as competitive as quickly as possible," Ricciardo said. "I'll finish the season as strongly as possible with Toro Rosso but as soon as it is finished I will switch focus to 2014, try to put in a really good off-season and do as much as I can to be prepared for the first race. All I can do is push myself and I'll have one of the best team-mates in the world to measure myself against."
Webber, meanwhile, has welcomed the appointment of his fellow Australian as he prepares to bow out of the sport in November for a new career in Sportscars.
"It's very, very rare that we have any Australians in Formula 1 and to hand the baton over for a very successful team is great for Dan, he thoroughly deserves it," the 37-year-old remarked. "It's a perfect scenario for the team as well, it all fits very well - after DC [David Coulthard] and myself, they have finally got another junior driver from the Red Bull programme. He's the perfect age, it's all in his corner and he can do a tremendous job."