As Mark Webber prepares to commit to Red Bull for 2012, team consultant Dr Helmut Marko has given the strongest sign yet that his successor will be another Australian.
Marko reinvigorated the speculation about Webber’s future in Hungary by saying that the 34-year-old is likely to retire after racing one more season.
“Mark Webber will continue with us for another year, and then he will decide what to do in his career,” the outspoken Austrian is quoted by Italian publications including Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport.
Marko reportedly added that “Red Bull will decide who takes his place, although it is likely it will be Ricciardo”.
He is referring to the 22-year-old Australian who recently made his grand prix debut at HRT with Red Bull backing.
“I thank the guys at Red Bull for the nice words, but it’s still too early to talk about the future,” said Ricciardo.
“I hope there is a chance to race with them, but first I need to beat my teammate Liuzzi, who is a few tenths ahead of me.”
As for Webber’s 2012 deal, he said he is on the verge of making his decision.
“I’ll decide about my future at Spa,” said Webber, referring to the forthcoming Belgian grand prix.
Asked if it is his decision alone, Webber simply answered “yes”, adding that the only thing he is weighing up is “purely my own motivation for racing”.
And as for Ricciardo, Webber told Austria’s laola1: “I think he has a great future ahead of him.”