Ricciardo gives Australia two men on F1 grid

London: Australia will have two drivers waltzing onto the grid at next weekend`s British Grand Prix for the first time in more than three decades following Friday`s announcement that Daniel Ricciardo will make his debut with the Hispania team at Silverstone.

Ricciardo was given a perfect 22nd birthday present when it was confirmed that he had been recruited to replace struggling Indian veteran Narain Karthikeyan.

The Indian will return to the team for his home race at New Delhi in the last week of October, but after eight races at the back end of the field has been given an extended `rest` while Red Bull protégé Ricciardo takes his seat.

Australia already has one established Formula One driver in title contender Mark Webbe of Red Bull.

Ricciardo, from Perth, Western Australia, has been used as the reserve driver by the Toro Rosso this year and has been running in the opening practice sessions at each of the opening eight Grands Prix of the year.

His entry to Formula One signals the first time that Australia has had two drivers likely to race in a Grand Prix since the Austrian Grand Prix of 1977 when Alan Jones claimed one of his most famous victories, winning for Shadow by more than 20 seconds ahead of local hero Niki Lauda in a Ferrari.

The win was the only recorded by the Shadow team in Formula One motor racing and it was such a surprise that the race organisers were caught short - they did not have a copy of the Australian national anthem available to play during the victory celebrations and instead `Happy Birthday` was broadcast through the public address system.

A second Australian, Vern Schuppan, from Whyalla, South Australia, finished 16th that day in a Surtees-Ford, two laps behind the triumphant Jones.

It was Jones` first win in a career that saw him go on and become Australia`s second drivers` world champion three years later.

Ricciardo said: "It`s a dream come true for me - for the first time on an F1 starting grid! I had to pinch myself a couple of times to be sure that it`s real.

"I`m excited and can hardly wait to drive at Silverstone. It`s a new challenge, a new experience, a new team, but I`m ready and will give of my best in any event."

Ricciardo, winner of the prestigious British Formula Three championship in 2009, is effectively being loaned out by Red Bull as part of his training and preparation for a possible step up to replace compatriot Webber at the senior Red Bull team in the future.

His path towards the top may take him back to Toro Rosso first, however, if he proves his talent and temperament with Hispania - a back of the grid outfit that has never scored a point since entering Formula One in 2010.

Hispania team chairman Jose Ramon Carabante said he was optimistic that the deal to run Ricciardo could be the start of a greater collaboration between his squad and Red Bull.

"This agreement is a reward for all the hard work Hispania Racing has shown since we started in Formula One last year," he said.

"We`re proud that the Formula One world champion team has trusted us in their effort of developing their drivers. Let`s hope that this is just the start of a fruitful relationship."

Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi is the third official driver on the Hispania team, but has been overlooked in this reshuffle that probably spells the end for Kathikeyan, the only Indian to score a point in F1 and also his country`s first and so-far only F1 driver.

Ricciardo is a product of Red Bull Racing`s driver academy programme. He is clearly a driver with enough natural speed to appear, at times, to have wings, but his close associates confirmed he is a man with his feet firmly on the ground.

Bureau Report

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