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Ricciardo won't be a No.2 driver - Horner

ESPN Staff
September 3, 2013 « Toro Rosso in no rush to name Ricciardo replacement | McLaren podiums still unlikely - Michael »
Daniel Ricciardo will go up against Sebastian Vettel next season © Sutton Images

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has guaranteed Daniel Ricciardo equal treatment as he goes up against Sebastian Vettel next year, and suspects his new recruit will surprise a few people with his pace.

Ricciardo will replace Mark Webber next season, who in the past has made clear that he felt like a No.2 driver to triple world champion Sebastian Vettel. However, Horner said his new signing will get the same opportunities as his team-mate next year.

"The decision to take a junior driver doesn't mean anything changes," Horner said. "Both drivers will get the same opportunity and the same equipment, but inevitably there will be a natural pecking order determined by the driver who is in front on track. Sebastian has won a lot of races and is a multiple world champion, so with that comes a lot of expectation. But the reality is that both drivers, as has always been the case, will get identical opportunity and equipment.

"Daniel is very quick and we know he's very quick and Sebastian is the best in the business at the moment. It's very tough to be his [Vettel's] team-mate so it will be a big surprise for him. But I think people are going to be surprised at the pace that Daniel does have. We've seen it at the simulator and at track tests, and we've seen flashes in the Toro Rosso.

"I think he really does have a natural ability. He's a good personality, a good guy to work with and I've never seen him yet without a smile on his face. For sure, now he will be smiling from ear to ear."

However, Horner admitted that 24-year-old Ricciardo is viewed as a "medium" or "long-term" prospect for the team.

"My expectations of Daniel next season are that he will continue to improve. He's a young driver, he's inevitably going to make a few mistakes early on but he will learn from them and improve. This is very much a medium- and long-term view that we are taking in developing him. Of the current crop of youngsters he is genuinely an exciting prospect."

Asked if he thought Ricciardo could match Vettel's achievements, Horner said: "It's a massively tall order; what Sebastian has achieved is unique. The win rate he has had, the amount of pole positions, wins and fastest laps is phenomenal for someone just 26. For Daniel to achieve anywhere near that is a massive order.

"I think he has all the attributes to be a very competitive grand prix driver, but only time will tell how good he can be. We believe he is good and deserves this chance. He has achieved it on merit."