Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo will make his Formula One race debut with the HRT team at next weekend’s 2011 Formula 1 Santander British Grand Prix. Red Bull protege Ricciardo is expected to take the place of Narain Karthikeyan.
The move is part of collaboration deal signed on Thursday whereby HRT will support Red Bull Racing in Ricciardo’s “formation and development,” ahead of a potential race drive for the 22 year-old with one of Red Bull’s own teams next season.
Ricciardo has made Friday practice appearances in each of this season’s eight Grands Prix as Toro Rosso’s third driver and his impressive performances have prompted speculation that he could replace either Sebastien Buemi or Jaime Alguersuari at the Red Bull-owned team.
“It’s a dream come true for me - for the first time on an F1 starting grid!” said Ricciardo of his HRT drive. “I had to pinch myself a couple of times to be sure that it’s real. I’m excited and can hardly wait to drive at Silverstone. It’s a new challenge, a new experience, a new team, but I’m ready and will give of my best in any event."
The Perth-born youngster joins Karthikeyan and team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi in HRT’s official driver line-up. Liuzzi is a known quantity to Red Bull, having raced for both their teams in the past, and will thus provide a useful benchmark with which to compare Ricciardo.
“This agreement is a reward for all the hard work Hispania Racing has shown since we started in Formula One last year,” commented HRT Chairman Jose Ramon Carabante. “We’re proud that the Formula One world champion team has trusted us in their effort of developing their drivers. Let’s hope that this is just the start of a fruitful relationship.”
HRT team principal Colin Kolles added: “I’m happy to welcome Daniel to the team; I’m glad the team managed to conclude this deal together with Dr Helmut Marko who deserves my personal respect."
Ricciardo won the highly competitive British Formula Three championship in 2009 and was runner-up in the 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 series. He was named Toro Rosso’s 2011 reserve after a successful outing with Red Bull in the Abu Dhabi young drivers’ test and this season is again competing in Formula Renault 3.5.