Daniel Ricciardo, reserve driver for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso, has been given an opportunity to race with the Marussia HRT F1 team from the British Grand Prix this week through to the end of the 2011 season, although he will have to sit out the Indian Grand Prix as the man he is replacing at HRT, Narain Karthikeyan, sits in for his inaugural home race.
Ricciardo has been running in the first free practice sessions in each of the 2011 grands prix with the Torro Rosso team, with the expectation that he will replace one of the existing STR drivers in 2012. I had predicted that Ricciardo would replace one of the STR drivers by Silverstone, however Buemi and Alguersuari have rallied in recent races and have both been reasonably quick and consistent. Alguersuari, in particular has had a couple of great races in Montreal and Valencia after a lacklustre early part of the season.
The HRT seat is a welcome opportunity for the Australian to build some F1 race experience. In some ways, this is an opportunity to race in F1 with minimal downside, as realistically, Daniel should only have 2 primary goals. Firstly to finish races and secondly to compete with his new team mate, Tonio Liuzzi. This is not an easy task, as Liuzzi has some decent experience behind him, having raced with Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India. Liuzzi is quick, and in the past, mistake prone but will be keen to demonstrate his talents against his young team mate. If Ricciardo manages to exceed these goals and manages to finish in front of a Lotus or two or performs a miracle to take the first points for HRT he can pretty much guarantee a solid F1 career.
This is an exciting time for Australian Formula 1 fans who have been facing the prospect of having no countrymen on the grid for the last few years as Mark Webber continues to enter 1 year contracts until such time that either he or his team decide that it is time to quit.
Not since the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix have two Australian drivers been on the F1 grid when Alan Jones and Vern Schuppan lined up at the Österreichring. It is only fitting that this circuit is now owned by Red Bull as it is Red Bull that is supporting both the current Australian Formula 1 drivers.
Good luck Daniel, you have the support of Australia's motor racing fans behind you!