Scuderia Toro Rosso at the 2011 Brazilian GPEnlarge Photo
Ricciardo, 22, comes to the Scuderia's front-line seat after serving as a Friday free practice driver early in the season; he drove full-time for Hispania Racing in the second half of the year. In 2008 the Perth, Australia native won the Formula Renault 2.0 title and in 2009 he won the British Formula 3 series. Ricciardo was runner-up in the 2010 Renault 3.5 series, combining his racing with reserve driver duties for both Red Bull Formula 1 teams.
"This is really a big deal for me," Ricciardo said, "and something I have wanted ever since I was driving for Toro Rosso on Friday mornings at the races, in the fist part of last season. To be honest, I am still jumping up and down with excitement at the news. Joining Scuderia Toro Rosso was always my real goal; I can't wait to get to work once testing begins."
Ricciardo thanked the Hispania team: "I learned a lot from the people I worked with, racing in 11 Grands Prix and I want to thank them for the opportunity they gave me.
Frenchman Vegne has worked with the Scuderia, driving in Free Practice 1 at three of the last four Grands Prix during the 2011 season. Only 21, Vergne followed in his new teammate's footsteps, winning the 2010 British Formula 3 championship and coming second in this year's Renault 3.5 series.
"I must thank Red Bull for all their support and for believing I am ready to take on the ultimate challenge of racing in Formula 1," he said. "Christmas has come early for me this year! Having driven for the team 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 can't wait to be part of the team for real. Sitting on the grid in Melbourne next March cannot come soon enough."
Both drivers have been part of the Red Bull Junior Driver program and decision to promote was taken by the team in conjunction with Red Bull.
"I am pleased that we have been able to reach an early decision on our drivers for next year," said Franz Tost, team manager. "It means we can all give our full attention to 2012, without any distractions. I must 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," he said.
"Scuderia Toro Rosso was established with the intention of providing a first step into Formula 1 for the youngsters in the Red Bull Junior Driver program. It is therefore part of the team's culture to change its driver lineup from time to time in order to achieve this goal."
© 2011 Anne Proffit