Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner says Toro Rosso's new pairing Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne are among the most exciting rising talents on the Formula 1 scene, and is intrigued to see how their battle to earn future RBR chances pans out.
Ricciardo and Vergne were announced as Toro Rosso's 2012 line-up last month, with Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari dropped to make way for the two Red Bull proteges. While Ricciardo had already completed a part-season with HRT, Vergne moves up to F1 after succeeding Ricciardo as British Formula 3 champion then finishing second in Formula Renault 3.5 over the past two years. Horner told AUTOSPORT he was looking forward to seeing the head-to-head between the two young drivers at Toro Rosso.
"They are two of the most exciting talents on the periphery of F1," he said. "To put them in the same environment gives us a much better visibility in terms of seeing how they progress.
"They have done tremendously well in the lower formulas and in test and simulation work for Red Bull Racing and we are fully supportive of their promotion into the race seats."
Asked if he saw the Toro Rosso intra-team battle as a fight to secure Mark Webber's Red Bull seat for 2013, Horner acknowledged that Ricciardo and Vergne were being groomed as potential drivers for the senior team but underlined that nothing was set in stone.
"Those two guys are both very competitive," he said. "They are products of the Red Bull junior programme and are both Red Bull Racing drivers on loan to Toro Rosso to develop them. Time will tell. There are no guarantees. It's the best way to see how their talent evolves over the next season or so."
Horner also reiterated his belief that Webber would deliver a stronger campaign this year after being overshadowed by Sebastian Vettel in 2011.
"Mark has been with the team for five seasons now and he's a very valued member for the team," said Horner. "He's training hard, his motivation seems very high and I'm sure he's going to be fully focused on having a very strong 2012."
After losing his Toro Rosso race seat, Buemi has been given the test and reserve role for Red Bull Racing - a move Horner welcomed.
"It's very positive for us," he said. "Sebastien has three years of grand prix experience, he knows the team well. He's technically very competent and has a lot of experience of current F1. For us, it's the best possible scenario to have Sebastien as our test and reserve driver."