- Webber warming his seat for Red Bull's charging hopefuls
- Webber overtaken as highest earning Australian
- Force India confirms Hulkenberg, di Resta for 2012
- 'Shocked' Buemi eyes options after Toro Rosso axe
- Alguersuari quiet as Spaniards eye HRT option
- Alonso working hard as Ferrari plans February launch
- 2012 Sauber to be launched at Jerez test
Webber warming the seat for Red Bull's charging hopefuls
Franz Tost has defended the decision to axe Toro Rosso's driver lineup by saying Formula One is "tough".
The boss of Red Bull's Faenza based team admitted that although Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi did a good job, Toro Rosso is a "rookie training school" for the energy drink company.
"With over two seasons under your belt, you are no longer a rookie," said Tost.
"In an ideal world, drivers would move from Scuderia Toro Rosso to Red Bull Racing, but there are no vacancies with our sister team right now.
"It might be seen as a harsh decision, but formula one is a tough environment and Toro Rosso has always been very clear about the principles behind its driver choice," the Austrian added.
Alguersuari and Buemi have both admitted they were shocked with this week's unexpected news, but for Australian Daniel Ricciardo it was a happy surprise.
"I don't know if it's a ballsy move but changing two drivers is something not many teams do," he told the West Australian newspaper.
"They're giving us a proper chance."
Countryman Mark Webber is also looking on the bright side, despite the obvious truth that Red Bull is shaping up to replace him sooner or later.
On the front of his Christmas card to friends and some journalists, the 35-year-old included a cartoon showing him with a present in a fire-lit lounge room, with Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne looking in from the freezing cold.
"Isn't it nice of the boys to give me a seat warmer for my car?" Webber's caption read.
Indeed, Ricciardo admitted a Red Bull Racing seat is the goal.
"I imagine if we're good enough that (seat) could be ours one day," he said.
"I think that's Red Bull's plan. Ideally they'd want to get a Red Bull junior driver in that seat."
Webber overtaken as highest earning Australian
Mark Webber has been overtaken as Australia's highest-earning sportsman.
Business Review Weekly's annual analysis of the country's rich and powerful found that the Red Bull driver made $9 million this year.
But that was reportedly half a million short of Honda's 2011 MotoGP champion Casey Stoner, the 26-year-old who - like 35-year-old Webber - is from New South Wales.
However, both Webber and Stoner have been left in the wheel tracks of Andrew Bogut, whose new Milwaukee Bucks contract saw him collect a cool $13.5 million by playing NBA basketball.
Motocross rider Chad Reed, meanwhile, reportedly made $8.5m, followed by Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, with $5m in 2011.
But for the country's new F1 star Daniel Ricciardo, the road ahead to high earnings is long, as the online WA Today newspaper expects the 22-year-old to make less than $200,000 racing with Toro Rosso next season.
And until this week, he wasn't sure he would even have that job.
"I can honestly say that I didn't know it (the announcement) was coming and it had been playing on my mind a fair bit," said Ricciardo.
"It was a fair bit of a relief actually," he added.
Force India confirms Hulkenberg, di Resta for 2012
Force India finally announced its 2012 driver lineup late on Friday.
As expected, the Silverstone based team confirmed long-time team driver Adrian Sutil's departure, confirming that Nico Hulkenberg will move up from the Friday role to race alongside Paul di Resta.
"He (Sutil) has been an integral part of our success over the past four seasons and we wish him well for the future," said team boss Vijay Mallya.
'Shocked' Buemi eyes options after Toro Rosso axe
Sebastien Buemi has joined his axed teammate Jaime Alguersuari in admitting this week's news from Red Bull was a nasty shock.
Le Matin newspaper said Swiss Buemi, 23, missed the mobile phone calls from bosses Franz Tost and Dr Helmut Marko earlier this week because he was driving the Barcelona track in the Red Bull simulator, and visiting Toro Rosso's UK wind tunnel.
"I was shocked," he admitted. "I had been told a decision would be made before the end of the year, but I was under the impression that my contract would be extended.
"I was not expecting it at all."
Buemi, 23, told Blick newspaper: "I have to accept it even if it is very hard to understand."
His options appear limited, with interviewer Roger Benoit pointing out that the vacancies - at Williams and HRT - are likely to be filled by drivers with millions in sponsor backing.
"There are drivers that are signed not only for the money," Buemi said.
Blick asked Buemi if a third driver role is also a possibility.
"Maybe there are options," he admitted, "but it's still too early to say anything.
"Fortunately in the past years I have built up many contacts with most of the teams. So this pays off now."
Buemi was asked if he has called his Swiss compatriot, Peter Sauber.
"No, but I will. Just like that," said the veteran of 55 races, who promptly asked the well-connected Blick journalist Roger Benoit for the phone number.
Alguersuari quiet as Spaniards eye HRT option
Jaime Alguersuari is refusing to give anything away as he considers his future following Toro Rosso's clean-sweep for 2012.
Asked if he has been in contact with any alternative employers after he was ousted by team owners Red Bull, the 21-year-old Spaniard told El Mundo Deportivo: "For the moment I can't say anything."
That may be because he is in the unusual situation of losing his seat but remaining under contract, with the energy drink company believed to have bound Alguersuari until 2013.
But according to Spain's highest-ranking FIA official Carlos Gracia, HRT might now seize the opportunity to create an all-Spanish lineup, with Pedro de la Rosa already signed up for 2012.
"It was an unpleasant surprise," Gracia is quoted by AS when asked about the Alguersuari news.
"Jaime has had a great season but the possibilities for him (for 2012) are complicated. HRT could be an option," he said.
HRT founder Adrian Campos said: "It's what you have to expect from (Helmut) Marko, a character who already destroyed the career of the big Spanish talent Antonio Garcia."
Veteran engineer Joan Villadelprat agreed: "If HRT has the ability to sign him it would be great. Hopefully it works out for him."
Ferrari test driver Marc Gene said: "I would not rule out HRT, because you can prove your worth with any team."
According to Marca newspaper, new HRT boss Luis Perez Sala recently sounded impressed with Alguersuari's season, insisting: "If he's not with Toro Rosso (in 2012) then it will be because he is with a better team."
Then came the bad news.
Said Spanish Indycar driver Oriol Servia: "I'm surprised but we know that in F1 these things happen."
FIA steward Joaquin Verdegay, also a Spaniard, said: "I think he will stay with Red Bull, because he has been one of the five best drivers of the year.
"Marko knows that too and I'm sure they're not going to drop him. Maybe he's going to Red Bull as third driver? Or maybe to replace Webber?"
Alonso working hard as Ferrari plans February launch
Ferrari's 2012 car will be ready to roll at the first official test of the winter pre-season.
A spokesman for the Italian team told Reuters as well as Autosprint (Italy) and SID news agency (Germany) that the new single seater will be revealed before its Jerez debut in early February.
A precise launch date was not specified.
"Definitely, the new project is a clean break with the past and a very different one," Luca Colajanni is quoted as saying.
Spain's AS newspaper reported that Fernando Alonso has visited Ferrari's Maranello headquarters "on several occasions" since the 2011 season ended in Brazil.
"Now, he has travelled to Maranello to be at the controls of the simulator for several days until Monday," said the report.
AS continued: "In fact, unlike normally, the Spaniard was unable to attend an event for Shell this week with journalists in Madrid.
"Instead he is in Italy trying different solutions for the 2012 car, which has been in the developing phase for some time as Ferrari hopes to return to winning ways."
2012 Sauber to be launched at Jerez test
Sauber on Friday revealed that its 2012 car will be ready for the first test of the pre-season.
The Swiss team announced in a statement that the Ferrari-powered C31 will be launched at Jerez on 6 February, the day before the start of the official group test at the southern Spanish circuit.
Hinwil-based Sauber has retained 2011 drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez for next season.
With the C30, they secured seventh place in the constructors' world championship in 2011, scoring more points than Toro Rosso, Williams and F1's three newest teams Caterham (nee Lotus), HRT and Marussia (nee Virgin).
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