Red Bull says it is under no pressure to take one of its young drivers as Sebastian Vettel's teammate next year, with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso also in contention.
Amid an increased focus on Red Bull's 2014 lineup, after it emerged in Hungary that Alonso's management held talks with its team boss Christian Horner, the reigning champion team is still considering its options. Daniel Ricciardo and Raikkonen are on the shortlist, and the team is considering Alonso a contender even though it is unclear if he is contractually available for next year.
Although Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz created the Toro Rosso team as a means of bringing on young talent, Horner says his squad will not be pushed to take Ricciardo if it does not feel that is the best decision.
"The situation we are in is that we want to run the strongest team," explained Horner. "We won the world championship the last three years and we want to make sure we are in the position to fight for the world championship in future years.
"There has never been any pressure that we must take a junior driver. Of course, the junior drivers are under consideration but there is not a prerequisite that it has to be a junior driver next year.
"Obviously, you want to put the strongest drivers in the cars that you possibly can, and Mark [Webber] leaves some big shoes to be filled."
Ricciardo impressed the team with his speed and attitude during a recent informal audition at the Silverstone young driver test.
However, Red Bull is equally aware that drivers of the calibre of Raikkonen and Alonso would bring a guaranteed level of competitiveness.
NO RUSH FOR DECISION
It was suggested several weeks ago that Red Bull would make a swift decision on the matter, but the state of negotiations with Raikkonen, as well as the tantalising prospect that Alonso could be available, means the team is willing to hold fire.
"We are going to take a bit of time to make sure we make the right decision," said Horner.
"We have some great options and we don't need to be in a rush."