F1's 'silliest season' has taken a big step towards sanity, as Red Bull finally confirmed Daniel Ricciardo will replace Australian countryman Mark Webber in 2014 and beyond.
Austrian media reports said the 24-year-old has inked a minimally three-year deal.
"Continuity is important to us," Dr Helmut Marko said on Red Bull-owned Austrian television Servus TV.
"The contract is therefore for at least three years, as Daniel was not only the youngest candidate but also the one with the most potential."
Champions Kimi Raikkonen and perhaps even Fernando Alonso were reportedly considered for the plum seat alongside Sebastian Vettel, but team boss Christian Horner said the Red Bull-groomed Ricciardo was ultimately a "very logical choice".
"We could have taken an experienced driver, somebody guaranteed to deliver to a relatively known level," admitted designer Adrian Newey.
"Or equally we could take on a much younger driver in the hope that they'll develop to a very high level."
He said the decision was similar to Williams' deliberations at the end of 1992, when the new champion Nigel Mansell departed.
"We could stick with Riccardo Patrese or take a punt on a young driver called Damon Hill who was our test driver at the time," said Newey.
"I think it's good to bring young blood in and give promising drivers a chance."
On the other hand, Red Bull's decision might be interpreted as a nod to German Vettel's increasing influence at the team, as he looks set to win a fourth consecutive world championship this year.
Indeed, the German newspapers Welt and Bild both described Ricciardo as a "nobody".
And Marko admitted Vettel had a say.
"It is a team decision, so of course Sebastian was asked for his opinion," he said.
The timing of Tuesday's announcement was also odd, according to the Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary.
He said it came "in the middle of football's transfer deadline frenzy", and also with many of the sport's top journalists at the London premiere of the new F1 film Rush.
"Perhaps Red Bull did not want the publicity," said Cary. "The Austrian-backed team have been criticised in some quarters for being too conservative with their choice."
Red Bull, however, insist Ricciardo is not a 'number 2', and that he will enjoy equal status and machinery alongside Vettel.
But Dr Helmut Marko also acknowledged that, coming to the champion team from Red Bull's midfield runner Toro Rosso, Ricciardo will take some time - "three to five races" - to steadily adjust and get up to full speed.
For Ricciardo, the news finally becoming official was a big relief.
"It was a bit of a wait," he grinned on Servus TV. "I've made sure I had my phone with me all the time!"
Marko insisted Ricciardo's current teammate, the similarly Red Bull-groomed Jean-Eric Vergne, had also been in the running.
"When they knew Mark Webber was leaving us, both of them upped their game," he said.
"Unfortunately, there can only be one. But Jean-Eric will have another opportunity next year at Toro Rosso. He is also slightly younger -- he just needs to have patience," added Marko.
'No rush' to name Ricciardo's successor - Tost
With Daniel Ricciardo now safely at Red Bull for 2014, the Australian's move has opened up a seat at the energy drink company's second team, Toro Rosso.
Until very recently, the obvious favourite was Portuguese Antonio Felix da Costa, the latest cream of Red Bull's junior programme.
But we reported last week that the 21-year-old has actually struggled recently in the Formula Renault 3.5 series.
And the next Red Bull youngster in the queue, Carlos Sainz jr - the 18-year-old son of the Spanish rally legend - has already been ruled out by Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost.
"I assume that he could be at formula one maturity in about two or three years," Tost said in July.
Another candidate is the Brazilian GP2 star Felipe Nasr, who according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport is knocking on the door with backing from Banco do Brasil and Sky Brasil.
"I need a Brazilian driver," said F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone in August.
Tost said on Wednesday the Faenza based team is not ready to name Ricciardo's successor.
"We will look at all our options and make a decision at a later date, as there is no immediate need to rush," he said.
But Austrian Tost seemed to play down Nasr's chances by insisting that, when Dietrich Mateschitz bought Minardi in 2005, he wanted it to be "the final step" in the Red Bull driver development programme.
"Daniel's move thus vindicates the work of the programme and also proves that we at Toro Rosso have given him a good racing education," he said.
But although well prepared, Ricciardo may take some time to adjust to his new role alongside Sebastian Vettel at the world champion team.
Dr Helmut Marko said the 24-year-old will be given "three to five races" to get up to speed.
Australia's 1980 world champion Alan Jones thinks he might need longer.
"There's been a lot of kids go into that (Red Bull young driver) programme and have never survived it -- and Daniel is one that has," he is quoted by the Melbourne newspaper The Age.
"If it takes Daniel twelve months or thereabouts to get into the groove with (Red Bull), I think they've probably factored that in."
Another Australian, McLaren sporting director Sam Michael, also thinks Ricciardo will need some time.
"If he came in and performed right at Sebastian's levels straight away then I think it would be quite amazing," he told reporters during the Vodafone teleconference on Wednesday.
"But ultimately, it's grand prix racing so it's also survival of the fittest. He'll be in there to prove himself as quickly as possible," said Michael.
Title charge won't hurt Red Bull for 2014 - Marko
Red Bull can win this year's championship and also be ready for the enormous challenge of the radical 2014 rules.
That is the claim of Dr Helmut Marko, as this year's title-charging teams grapple with the even-more-delicate-than-usual task of balancing two parallel development tasks.
"With these huge technological changes, it is a difficult situation for a team like us," Marko said on Austrian television Servus TV.
Indeed, while some big teams like McLaren are basically now fully immersed in the 2014 programme, abandoning this year's car is not a luxury Red Bull can afford.
"Our plan is that we are going to keep developing to win the (2013) world championship and, at the same time, work on the new car as well," Marko confirmed.
"We are not a small team, but we are not the biggest either," he insisted.
But counting in Red Bull's favour, Marko said, is the renowned skill of technical boss Adrian Newey, who not only is good at balancing two development programmes, but he also relishes a raft of sweeping rule changes.
"I am convinced that we will come again next year with solutions that are not conventional," Marko said.
"It's not as though we have the new car just sitting in the corner -- some teams in the technology group under Adrian Newey are working only on 2014," he revealed.
"One thing we have learned over the years is that, whatever you develop, you always learn something, even if the rules are changing."
Yet another challenge for teams at present is the uneasy prospect of an eleventh-hour switch from Pirelli to Michelin tyres for 2014.
McLaren's Sam Michael said the change would affect the car's aerodynamics, suspension geometry and setup parameters, but teams have no option except to "assume" their cars will be running Pirelli tyres next year.
"Right now we're fully down the road of designing our car for Pirelli tyres," he told reporters during the Vodafone teleconference on Wednesday.
"If that changed, like anything in F1, then you'd adapt, because F1 is all about change management."
Button not denying new three-year deal imminent
Jenson Button has not denied suggestions he is on the cusp of signing a new three-year deal to stay at McLaren beyond 2013.
The 2009 world champion counted himself into the 'silly season' recently when he revealed that team boss Martin Whitmarsh is yet to take up an option on his current deal.
Red Bull has subsequently confirmed Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber's successor at Red Bull, but Ferrari still has an opening alongside Fernando Alonso for 2014.
Asked about the fabled Italian team, Briton Button answered: "I should say 'never say never', as all the drivers do.
"I don't like to predict the future," he is quoted by Italy's La Repubblica, "and Ferrari is legendary, but so too is McLaren."
Indeed, the Woking based team is this week celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Limited in September 1963.
"Why should I change?" 33-year-old Button asked rhetorically.
Actually, Button's age is perhaps the best argument that, if he does harbour a desire to wear red, he should jump at the opportunity now.
With Mark Webber's exit to Le Mans, Button will be the oldest driver on the grid next year.
Asked if that bothers him, Button insisted: "No, because age is not important, what is important is whether you're losing your speed or your reflexes or your reaction time.
"We do all of those tests and if anything I am improving, not to mention that I have more experience and strategic intelligence."
Asked specifically about the rumours of a three-year extension, which would take Button well into McLaren's new Honda era, he said: "(I will stay) as long as I feel competitive."
Buemi admits 2014 F1 return unlikely
Sebastien Buemi has admitted his career will probably stay on its current course in 2014.
Daniel Ricciardo has been signed by Red Bull's champion team for at least three years, and the other energy drink-owned F1 squad, Toro Rosso, looks likely to field Jean-Eric Vergne alongside rookie Antonio Felix da Costa next season.
It means that if former Toro Rosso driver and current Red Bull reserve Buemi, the 24-year-old Swiss, wants to return to the grid, he will have to do so at a non-Red Bull team.
"The doors are still open," he told Brazil's Totalrace, "but nowadays it is very difficult because of the financial situation.
"It is not easy when they (teams) are looking for (drivers with) money."
For the last couple of years, Buemi has split his time between serving as the Red Bull reserve at grands prix, and racing for Toyota in endurance sports cars.
He said: "My goal is to return to formula one, obviously.
"But I am very happy to be here," said Buemi, referring to Toyota, with whom he finished second in this year's fabled 24 hour Le Mans race.
"It's a great car, we are in a big fight, and I'm doing my best to succeed here.
"I am happy with the situation here at Toyota and what I'm doing with Red Bull, so why not go on like this for another year?" said Buemi.
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