2012 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
While most of us are glued to the thrilling climax to the 2012 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, others have one eye on next season – and who’s going where among the 12 teams on the grid.
Earlier this week we heard that Kimi Raikkonen will be staying with Lotus, while Nico Hülkenberg is moving from Sahara Force India to Sauber.
Now we have confirmation that Scuderia Toro Rosso’s line-up for 2013 will be unchanged, with young guns Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne staying on for a second year.
Both are 22: Ricciardo had 11 races with HRT in 2011 while Vergne – or JEV, as he is known – is in his rookie season as an F1 driver. Both are on the 2012 scoreboard, Vergne in 17th place with 12 points and Ricciardo one place behind on nine.
“Both drivers have done a good job this season,” said Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost when the new deal was announced. “Daniel joined us with a few Grands Prix under his belt and so his feedback and experience was particularly useful while Jean-Eric got up to speed, often having to deal with tracks he had never seen before.
“Since the summer break, both drivers have scored more points and everyone in the team has been impressed with their maturity in terms of working with the engineers and their racecraft on track.”
Vergne acknowledged his steep learning curve – but also his optimism for the new year. “It has been a difficult season and, as a rookie, I have learned a lot, thanks to the support I got and the excellent relationship I have enjoyed with all the guys,” he said. “I feel much stronger now and I know I have become a better driver over the course of the season.”
Ricciardo said he was “really pumped” after the team’s vote of confidence in him. “There are big expectations for next year and I’m ready and willing to fulfil them,” he said. “I feel I have been growing and developing as a driver and my approach to the technical side of the sport has also progressed this year, so I am sure that will serve me well in my second season.”
By our reckoning that means exactly half of the 24-car field is settled for 2013.
Among the top teams Red Bull’s pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber is unchanged; McLaren are losing Lewis Hamilton but have signed Sergio Perez to partner Jenson Button; and Ferrari also stay unchanged with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
Mercedes will say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to Michael Schumacher, who is retiring, and ‘How do you do’ to Lewis Hamilton; and as we have just seen Toro Rosso’s line-up is unchanged. But then…
Lotus have one man signed up, that’s Kimi Raikkonen; so do Sauber in the shape of Nico Hülkenberg; but all the other five teams – Force India, Williams, Caterham, HRT and Marussia – are yet to announce their plans.
F1? It’s a waiting game…