Ricciardo out of Toro Rosso picture?
F1 rookie Daniel Ricciardo continues to be linked with a switch to the Caterham F1 team as Toro Rosso remains with current line-up.
Daniel Ricciardo continues to be linked with a possible switch to the renamed Caterham F1 team as Scuderia Toro Rosso looks set to remain with its 2011 line-up for another year.
The Australian Red Bull protege had been tipped to move into the drinks brand's 'junior' team after serving a brief apprenticeship with HRT, but the improved form of both Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi has improved their chances of remaining in situ for 2012.
While neither Alguersuari or Buemi could confirm that they would be staying put - Toro Rosso is expected to make an announcement before Christmas - both admitted that they were carrying on 'as normal' in anticipation of racing in 2012.
"I don't know what's happening - nothing," Buemi told Switzerland's Blick newspaper, "I do know that the decision will be in December, [so] I'm just taking it easy for a few days.
"I have a date with my watch sponsor and, after that, I will be in the Red Bull simulator in Milton Keynes. I am continuing to work as normal."
With few other options - its senior team is full and HRT appears to be moving increasingly towards an Spain-centric line-up - Red Bull could again look to farm Ricciardo out to a rival operation, with Caterham (nee Team Lotus) the most likely option as doubt continues to hover over the wording of the announcement confirming Jarno Trulli for 2012.
The Monza communique revealing that the veteran would remain a part of the Team Lotus set-up contained phrases that made no mention of a race seat for next season - 'We are all delighted that we have been able to reach an agreement to keep Jarno on board for at least one more year with our team' was team principal Tony Fernandes' contribution - and the Italian's position is increasingly thought to be under threat, with Ricciardo being joined by Virgin refugee Jerome d'Ambrosio on the list of possible replacements.
The Australian confirmed recently that he did not expect there to be an opening at Toro Rosso, but admitted that he could shed much light on where he may end up next season.
"At the moment it seems like Toro Rosso are going to stay with who they've got," he told the West Australian newspaper, "It wasn't put down 100 per cent, but it was the wording I was making out.
"There's a good chance that, if I'm on the grid next year, it's going to be with another non-Red Bull outfit, but I guess the good news is I'm still contracted by Red Bull. They've agreed to continue with me."
Ricciardo, who recorded a best of 18th place in his debut season with backmarker HRT - managing the result in both Hungary and India - said that he hoped to find out if he would be on next season's grid in the next week.
The Trulli 'contract' aside, Caterham would appear to be a good bet for the Australian as the team enjoys a strong technical relationship with Red Bull and engine supplier Renault, having agreed to increase its supply deal to use both gearboxes and KERS systems from 2012.
"I would like to say there's a chance but, for me, that's probably all it is for now, just a chance," Ricciardo continued, "It would be a step up from this year, so it's not really a bad thing, [although] I doubt they'll still be able to fight for points next year. They'll still be towards the further end, but I think they're progressing well."
The former British F3 champion also admitted that he would welcome the challenge of talking on the 'other' Lotus driver in 2012, but would rather do so as a race, rather than test, pilot.
"If [Heikki] Kovalainen was to be my team-mate, it's someone very good to measure up to," he reasoned, "He's won a grand prix before and he's smashed Trulli this year.
"I'm obviously proud of getting [to F1] and doing something that I've dreamed of since I was a kid, but it's probably like everything. I've got there now, but I'm not happy just to settle just for that. I want to keep going forward - and I believe I can.