RED BULL PROMOTING RICCIARDO
Red Bull has signed Daniel Ricciardo to replace his departing Australian countryman Mark Webber in 2014.
That is the claim of Germany's Sport Bild, whose correspondents Bianca Garloff and Ralf Bach said the news about Sebastian Vettel's new teammate will be announced at the Belgian grand prix in a week.
"Unfortunately, I cannot say any more than that we will make an announcement at Spa," said the energy drink-owned outfit's Dr Helmut Marko.
23-year-old Ricciardo's move to Red Bull ties in with reports Kimi Raikkonen is returning to Ferrari.
Australian Ricciardo told Sport Bild just before the summer break that, if selected to race alongside Vettel in 2014, he expects to get along with the reigning world champion.
"I know Seb quite well," he said, "as I was the reserve driver in 2010. I was out for dinner with him a few times and we get on really well."
Ricciardo admitted, however, that he is not immediately expecting equal status with his German stablemate.
"Of course not at the start of the season," he said, "but I'm in formula one to be the best."
'Very high' stakes as Ricciardo eyes Red Bull - Tost
The stakes are higher than ever as Daniel Ricciardo prepares to step up from Toro Rosso to Red Bull Racing in 2014.
That is the warning of Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso's boss Franz Tost, as the world championship-leading squad chooses between Australian Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen or perhaps even Fernando Alonso for the 2014 vacancy.
If Ricciardo, 23, gets the nod, he will be the first Toro Rosso driver to step up to the main Milton Keynes-based team since Vettel in 2008.
But Tost insists the pressure on Ricciardo will be higher than it was for the then 21-year-old Vettel.
"It (2008) was a completely different time," the Austrian, who has argued Ricciardo should stay at Toro Rosso for one more season, is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.
"At that time, Vettel went to a team that was still under construction. Yet today, if he goes to Red Bull, Daniel goes straight to the champion team."
"The level is very high. We are preparing him in the best way possible but, ultimately, it is up to the driver to deal with it and prove he is capable."
Another difference between 2008 and 2013 is that, while the fresh-faced rookie Vettel arrived at Red Bull to be Webber's teammate, Ricciardo will be facing off against potentially a reigning quadruple world champion.
"You need to have discipline to fight Sebastian Vettel," said Tost, "who is a world champion, and we cannot forget that.
"The level is very high."
Williams expects Symonds impact to be 'immediate'
Williams is expecting the imminent arrival of well-known technical figure Pat Symonds to have "an immediate impact" on the struggling team.
Amid the Oxfordshire based team's dire form in 2013, Williams announced a month ago that, as technical director Mike Coughlan departs, fellow Briton Symonds is arriving from backmarker Marussia to be chief technical officer.
Symonds, a prominent technical figure at Renault until the 'crashgate' scandal of 2009, will start work at Williams on Monday, as the August factory shutdown concludes.
Frustrated team driver Pastor Maldonado said in Hungary recently that the shakeup is "very welcome", even though he doesn't know if it will end Williams' slump.
But the team's deputy principal Claire Williams, the daughter of boss Sir Frank Williams, is confident Symonds will make a difference.
"Clearly we are not where we would like, but there are exciting times ahead because of the changes we have made," she told Brazil's Totalrace.
"Pat Symonds is coming after the August break and I think he will have an immediate impact and get us where we need to be," added Williams.
"Our current situation is clearly not what we want, so we had to make some changes."
Interestingly, however, Williams ruled out taking the opportunity of the technical shakeup to shift the team's entire focus to a fresh start for 2014.
"We cannot do that," she insisted.
"Williams always goes to every race trying to score points, wanting to win. As in any year, let's make sure that we continue to develop this car, while thinking about the car for 2014."
Marko tips Merc to favour Hamilton for title
Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko has tipped Mercedes to bet everything on Lewis Hamilton taking a shot at the 2013 world championship.
On the face of it, the German squad does not have a number 1 driver, but with less than half the season left to go, and arguably now the fastest car, the last-start winner is Lewis Hamilton.
The Briton's deficit to title leader Sebastian Vettel, however, is 48 points.
Marko told Auto Bild: "We are taking Mercedes very seriously.
"Last year we were 44 points behind Alonso after the summer break, and yet we were world champion in the end. That's how fast things can change.
"Now is their chance and they will put everything on Hamilton," Marko predicted.
But a bold statement like that, particularly from the outspoken arch-enemy, might be seen as a mere attempt to unsettle Mercedes, with Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg having won two grands prix so far this season.
It is understandable that the German team is playing down its chances.
Asked if Mercedes can win the 2013 title, chairman Niki Lauda answered plainly: "No.
"Red Bull are still stronger overall," he told Auto Motor und Sport, "and they have this point advantage.
"On paper we have a chance, but in reality it is very difficult," Lauda insisted.
For now, then, there is no talk of team orders.
"We have a clear situation: everything stays open unless it gets really serious," said Lauda.
Tellingly, however, Lauda admitted that Mercedes is still pushing ahead with development of the 2013 car, even with the huge challenge of 2014 now looming large.
"With every race we are taking the car forwards," he said, "but the next three races will be decisive.
"Eventually, we will also need to think about where we are putting our resources. We try to postpone it as long as possible, but at some point, the time will have come."
He admitted the key to unlocking the W04's winning potential has been understanding the Pirelli tyres.
"We know more, but not everything. I would say we are at about 70 per cent," said Lauda. "At the beginning of the season we understood nothing."