Budapest: Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has boosted Australian Daniel Ricciardo's hopes of beating Finn Kimi Raikkonen to next season's vacant seat alongside triple world champion German Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.
Mateschitz, who has privately funded the return of the Austrian Grand Prix to the Formula One calendar next year, this week said he was impressed with Toro Rosso driver Ricciardo's recent performances as he bids to succeed compatriot Mark Webber.
Mateschitz dropped a clear hint on Thursday that Ricciardo is now in pole position to follow Webber following his strong showing in the recent Silverstone test.
"No decision has been taken yet," he said. "It is still under discussion within the team but it will be announced after Budapest. Ricciardo did an excellent job at Silverstone and Jean-Eric Vergne (also of Toro Rosso) was good too."
Ricciardo, from Perth in Western Australia, has been encouraged to push for the drive by Webber who announced on the eve of the British Grand Prix his decision to retire from Formula One and go sportscar racing with Porsche next year.
Raikkonen, of Lotus, has been strongly linked with the drive since Webber made his announcement, but has yet to show his best form this year. His management are reportedly in discussions with both Lotus and Red Bull for next year and the Finn is understood to prefer to stay with Lotus if the team can make the investments required to be title contenders.
Much may be decided this weekend as Lotus are among the favourites to dominate at the Hungarian Grand Prix with Raikkonen favoured to win.