Scuderia Toro Rosso will have a completely new driver line-up for the 2012 Formula 1 season, made up of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. It will be the first time since the team’s 2006 debut that it will begin the year with an all new line-up. Both drivers have come through the Red Bull Junior Driver programme and the decision to promote Daniel and Jean-Eric to Scuderia Toro Rosso was taken by the team in conjunction with Red Bull.
Franz Tost: “I am pleased that we have been able to reach an early decision on our drivers for next year, because it means we can all give our full attention to 2012, without any distractions. Over the past year, both Daniel and Jean-Eric have proved their worth and I expect them to make a significant contribution to the team’s performance next year. Daniel has the benefit of having actually raced in Grands Prix for much of this year, while Jean-Eric proved he could adapt quickly to the demands of driving a Formula 1 car. As they have both worked with the team and its engineers very recently, this should allow us to get up to speed right from the start of winter testing in a couple of months time. I must also thank Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for all their hard work over the past three seasons. They have delivered some excellent performances which have helped the team move forward and develop. We wish them well for the future. However, one has to remember that when Scuderia Toro Rosso was established in 2005, it was done so with the intention of providing a first step into Formula 1 for the youngsters in the Red Bull Junior Driver programme. It is therefore part of the team’s culture to change its driver line-up from time to time in order to achieve this goal.”
Twenty two year old Ricciardo, from Perth, Australia has already experienced life in F1, firstly by driving for Toro Rosso during Friday’s first free practice session at Grands Prix in the early part of 2011, before driving full time for Hispania Racing in the second half of the year. In 2008 he won the Formula Renault 2.0 Championship and the following year, he won the British Formula 3 series. In 2010, Dan finished runner up in the Renault 3.5 series, combining his racing with reserve driver duties for both Red Bull F1 teams.
Daniel Ricciardo: “This is a really big deal for me and something I have wanted ever since I was driving for Toro Rosso on Friday mornings at the races in the first part of last season. To be honest, I am still jumping up and down with excitement at the news. In the second half of 2011 I learned a lot from the people I worked with, racing in eleven Grands Prix and I want to thank them for the opportunity they gave me. I have to say that joining Scuderia Toro Rosso was always my real goal, so a big thank you to Red Bull for giving me this fantastic opportunity and now I can’t wait to get to work once testing begins.”
Frenchman Vergne has already worked with Scuderia Toro Rosso, most recently, driving in Free Practice 1 at three of the last four Grands Prix of the 2011 season. The twenty one year old Frenchman followed in his new team-mate’s footsteps, winning the 2010 British Formula 3 Championship and coming second in this year’s Renault 3.5 series.
Jean-Eric Vergne: “First of all, I must thank Red Bull for all their support so far and for believing I am ready to take on the ultimate challenge of racing in Formula 1. Christmas has come early for me this year! Having driven for them a few times this year and also testing for Red Bull Racing in Abu Dhabi, I definitely feel ready to make the move, even if I know there is a big difference between testing and actually racing. I enjoyed working with the guys at Toro Rosso this year and I can’t wait to be part of the team for real. Sitting on the grid in Melbourne next March cannot come soon enough.”