For me, the calculations at Red Bull are simple – choose Raikkonen and lose the Red Bull Junior Team, or simply rename it the Toro Rosso Junior Team and stop lulling all drivers into a false sense of security.
Sebastian Vettel’s consecutive championships have been nothing but a curse to his Toro Rosso successors – for Red Bull bosses to expect any driver on the scheme to follow in his footsteps or face expulsion is unfair and not realistic. Unfortunately for Toro Rosso drivers, this is an all too familiar pattern.
Buemi is still clinging on, just. Alguersuari was dropped whilst the less said about Sebastian Bourdais and Scott Speed, the better. The same fate that was bestowed on these drivers looks set to ruin the career of at least one Toro Rosso driver.
You can see why Red Bull want Raikkonen, he is quick, no nonsense and would not be intimidated by Vettel. However, surely the setting is too corporate for a man whose relationship with the media is strenuous at best? As the three-time constructors champions, every media outlet wants a piece of the team and their drivers.
I can almost see Kimi stood in the corner of the garage, arms folded, refusing to join the furore of the world’s press.
If all these factors have occurred to Red Bull then the choice, sadly, seems obvious to them – Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne signed their contracts for the junior scheme on the same day but the Australian has always been favoured.
Daniel Ricciardo was test driver. Jean-Eric Vergne was not.
Daniel Ricciardo was in the HRT at the expense of Red Bull. Jean-Eric Vergne was not.
Rather telling pre-Toro Rosso statistics.
Jean-Eric Vergne finished ahead of his more experienced team-mate in 2012 and his patterns of consistency look set to continue for, despite two tough races, the Frenchman still sits ahead of his team mate in the championship.
The two drivers possess entirely different attributes. Ricciardo is outgoing, has his contagious smile permanently beaming and he seems to ooze more obvious confidence.
Vergne differs, as all racing drivers should, to his team mate. Perhaps not entirely confident of his English skills, he instead remains quiet, methodical and consistently tactical. With a strong and well-known personality in Vettel, would someone possessing similar traits to Mark Webber be more appropriate?
The truth is, and I almost guarantee it, if Red Bull do pick from their crop of talent, Ricciardo will get the nod. It is worryingly simple. Daniel Ricciardo will then be attached with a timer – don’t succeed quickly enough and you may as well leave.
But where would this leave Jean-Eric Vergne? In a bit of a predicament, most likely. He faces three options, stay with Toro Rosso and hope to out-pace his team-mate regularly, leave the programme and find a seat elsewhere or join a different series all together.
If he stays with Toro Rosso, his career path will be reminiscent of Sebastien Buemi who has stuck his bottom lip out and refused to remove any connections to the mighty Red Bull. This does seem unlikely; Antonio Felix da Costa is a shooing for the Toro Rosso seat.
Having watched Antonio race in Formula Renault 3.5, it is obvious to see why he is their new prodigy. Another talent is not far behind, Carlos Saniz Jr. Easily living up to his father’s reputation combined with money to race in GP3 and occasionally the World Series by Renault, he has plenty of experience.
No room for Vergne then. He may gain a seat at a struggling team who need a man with a couple of years experience but even that seems unlikely. With no money and no connections to any other team, much like Alguersuari, he could be pushed to the sidelines. Two years seems to be a cursed time limit for Toro Rosso.
It is hard to criticise Red Bull; their performances are incredible. However their Junior Team leaves us scratching our heads in confusion and sighing in dismay.
Two years of Formula 1 grooming, money and investment may all go down the drain as Jean-Eric Vergne’s future hangs in the balance. However, I fear he is unlikely to admit it.