Ricciardo in F1 at last as HRT dump Karthikeyan
Australia is set to have two competing Formula One drivers on the grid within ten days with HRT exchanging Narain Karthikeyan for Daniel Ricciardo.
HRT confirmed last night that they have opted to sideline the out of favour Karthikeyan off the back of his poor form so far this season.
Rumours were also verified that the backmarker had indeed concluded a deal with Red Bull to have STR reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo fill the vacated seat for the remainder of 2011 in a loan deal with the Italian team.
The addition of the Perth-born rookie would see two Australians lining up on the grid for the first time since 1977.
‘It’s a dream come true for me – for the first time on an F1 starting grid!,’ said the 22 year old Ircciardo. ‘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.’
Karthikeyan dumped by HRT
The move by HRT to drop Karthikeyan means that both of their drivers will be funded by other teams, with Liuzzi’s place being funded by his previous contract with Force India.
‘This agreement is a reward for all the hard work Hispania Racing has shown since we started in Formula 1 last year,’ said Chairman of HRT José Ramón Carabante.
‘We’re proud that the Formula 1 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.’
‘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,’ agreed team principal Colin Kolles.
Although Ricciardo’s drive will be payed for, the cash-strapped team signed Karthikeyan taking into account his sponsorship arangement with Indian motor giant Tata – it remains to be seen whether the auto manufacturer stays with the team.
It is understood, however, that Karthikeyan will return for his home race at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in October.
Ricciardo, who served as a reserve driver for Red Bull in 2010, was signed this year to sister team Toro Rosso to gain experience during Friday morning practice sessions.
With Ricciardo in the wings, pressure had been growing for Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari – STR’s two full-time drivers – as the Red Bull Junior team has a history of replacing drivers halfway through the season to make way for developing talent.
Alguersuari in particular had been under close scrutiny after a poor start to the season, though with Ricciardo now furnished with a drive for the rest of the season, both he and Buemi are likely to be safe until the end of the year.
Ricciardo, who turns 22 today, competed in Formula Ford in Western Australia during 2005 before moving to Formula BMW in the UK and Asia.
The Australian spent 2007 competing in a number of support categories to Formula Renault, a championship that he would win by the end of 2008.
He graduated to British Formula Three in 2009 with reigning champions Carlin Motorsport, winning the 20 round season with seven wins and 13 podium places.
In 2010 Red Bull confirmed that Ricciardo would share reserve driver duties with Brendon Hartley, and after lapping faster at the young driver test than Sebastian Vettel had done during qualifying at Abu Dhabi he was confirmed as a Friday driver for Toro Rosso.