Toro Rosso have announced this afternoon that Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne will be their race drivers for 2012.
Both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, who began their F1 careers at the team in 2009, will be forced to look elsewhere if they are to remain on the grid.
The promotion of Ricciardo and Vergne to Toro Rosso next season gives the team their first all-new driver line-up since their 2006 debut.
Both drivers have come through the Red Bull Young Driver Programme, and the decision to give the pair a race seat was made in conjunction with Red Bull.
“I am pleased that we have been able to reach an early decision on our drivers for next year, because it means we can all give our full attention to 2012, without any distractions,” said Franz Tost, the Toro Rosso team principal. “Over the past year, both Daniel and Jean-Eric have proved their worth and I expect them to make a significant contribution to the team's performance next year.
“Daniel has the benefit of having actually raced in Grands Prix for much of this year, while Jean-Eric proved he could adapt quickly to the demands of driving a Formula 1 car. As they have both worked with the team and its engineers very recently, this should allow us to get up to speed right from the start of winter testing in a couple of months time.
“I must also thank Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for all their hard work over the past three seasons. They have delivered some excellent performances which have helped the team move forward and develop. We wish them well for the future. However, one has to remember that when Scuderia Toro Rosso was established in 2005, it was done so with the intention of providing a first step into Formula 1 for the youngsters in the Red Bull Junior Driver programme. It is therefore part of the team's culture to change its driver line-up from time to time in order to achieve this goal.”
Ricciardo has already completed eleven grand prix, albeit in an uncompetitive HRT, and drove in some Friday practice sessions with Toro Rosso earlier in the season. The 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 runner-up is relishing the opportunity to drive with the team on a full-time basis.
“This is a really big deal for me and something I have wanted ever since I was driving for Toro Rosso on Friday mornings at the races in the first part of last season,” said the Australian. “To be honest, I am still jumping up and down with excitement at the news. In the second half of 2011 I learned a lot from the people I worked with, racing in eleven Grands Prix and I want to thank them for the opportunity they gave me.
“I have to say that joining Scuderia Toro Rosso was always my real goal, so a big thank you to Red Bull for giving me this fantastic opportunity and now I can't wait to get to work once testing begins.”
Like Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne is no stranger to the Red Bull family. He drove for Toro Rosso at a Friday practice session in three of the last four grand prix of last season, and topped the timesheets on all three days of the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi last month when testing for Red Bull.
The Frenchman was the 2010 British Formula 3 Champion, taking the series title one year after Ricciardo and, like his new team-mate, has also finished as runner-up in the Renault 3.5 championship.
“First of all, I must thank Red Bull for all their support so far and for believing I am ready to take on the ultimate challenge of racing in Formula 1,” said Vergne. “Christmas has come early for me this year!
“Having driven for them a few times this year and also testing for Red Bull Racing in Abu Dhabi, I definitely feel ready to make the move, even if I know there is a big difference between testing and actually racing. I enjoyed working with the guys at Toro Rosso this year and I can't wait to be part of the team for real. Sitting on the grid in Melbourne next March cannot come soon enough.”