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TopGear meets Christian Horner. Ricciardo: ‘cheaper than Räikkönen’

It’s only right that the Italian GP is blitzed with the kind of scalding heat only the tifosi can summon in their celebrations. Why? Monza is traditionally the climax of the so-called ‘silly season’, the place where facts go to die and gossip and conjecture become lore.

So, it’s only natural that here, sweltering in the ominous shadow of a Red Bull wipeout with team principal Christian Horner, we find ourselves talking about a topic that has captivated much of Formula One since the break: Kimi Räikkönen moving to Red Bull in 2014.

Of course, he’s not; we know now that Red Bull has opted for rising Aussie Daniel Ricciardo, ahead of the famously verbose and hugely talkative former world champion Kimi; a man who once famously missed a Schuey victory ceremony to have a, ahem, ‘movement’.

But why Ricci’ over Kimi? “Well, he was cheaper”, Horner says, a wry smirk as he does so. This elicits much laughter from the assembled pack. He’s a smart chap, Christian. “But in all seriousness, Daniel’s a very talented guy. He’s not just for next year, but for the years beyond that too. He’s done a great job in the Toro Rosso this year, we’ve followed his progress closely, and he’s a genuine talent.

“He’s there on merit, he’s got a great natural ability, and yes, it’s going to take time for him to develop and evolve. But we collectively came to the conclusion that he’s absolutely the right guy.”

Surely they had their pick of anyone on the grid, being triple world champions and all? Horner smiles. “The shortlist was pretty long, as you can imagine, a Red Bull seat is sought after by most drivers in the paddock, so we weren’t spoiled for choice.” Intriguing, no? He wasn’t to be budged when pushed for who else was on the shortlist, but you can imagine a lot of agents made many phone calls over the summer.

So what about next year then, now that his line-up is all sorted? “It’s like spinning two plates. Obviously we’re pushing as hard as we can on the development of the current car because we’re in a championship battle, but we’re very conscious we’ve got a big regulation change, so the reality is we’re late for next year, but that’s absolutely nothing new, it’s the superhuman efforts that go on behind the scenes that enable us to achieve what we have over the last few years.”

And because it’s such a gamble, what with these new turbo engines – “probably the biggest change for 20 years in Formula One” – Messrs Horner and Newey aren’t taking anyone for granted. “Who are we most concerned about next year?” Another laugh. “Take your pick: Mercedes. Ferrari. McLaren. Lotus.

“You have to respect all your rivals, I mean that’s the great thing about this sport, things can move around.” A moment to reflect, then: “Who’d have thought at the beginning of 2009 that Red Bull were going to ‘turn up’. We’d finished 7th in the championship the previous year, then we started winning races.” And the rest, as they say, is a Big Fat Sebastian Vettel shaped victory.

Reckon Ricciardo was the right choice to take on a Red Bull seat next year? Let us know in the comments below…

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