Red Bull protege Antonio Felix da Costa says improving his Formula Renault 3.5 form, rather than the post-Mark Webber driver reshuffle, is critical to his 2014 Formula 1 hopes.
After a stellar 2012 season in which took more FR3.5 wins than anyone else despite missing five races, finished third in GP3 and then won the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix, da Costa was tipped for an early F1 promotion with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso. But his 2013 FR3.5 campaign got off to a tougher start and he is third in the standings at mid-season.
Although da Costa is getting a day and a half of F1 testing with Red Bull at Silverstone this week, he doubts he will earn a grand prix chance if he cannot improve his form in his FR3.5 regular ride.
"I don't hide it – the goal is to be in F1 next year but this will only happen if I do a good job in FR3.5," he said. "We need to raise our game there a bit, things are OK but not magical."
Da Costa reckons proving himself in FR3.5 will be an even bigger factor in his chances than the fall-out of Red Bull's hunt for Mark Webber's replacement.
Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen is the favorite for the slot alongside Sebastian Vettel, but current Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne are also strong candidates, with Ricciardo moving into pole position with his Red Bull testing call-up this week.
Asked if Red Bull signing Raikkonen rather than freeing up a Toro Rosso space would be bad for his F1 hopes, da Costa replied: "No, I don't think so. I think if we do a good end to FR3.5 then my hopes are open. I'm sure whatever the team does is the best for the team.
"It would be good to see a junior driver step into Red Bull, that's what the junior team is all about."