Now the cream of the energy drink company's driver development programme, Australian Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were signed to Toro Rosso this year and regarded as candidates to graduate to the main team in 2013.
But on much improved form in the first half of this year, Ricciardo's countryman Webber has secured a new contract for next season.
The 23-year-old insists he is not disappointed.
"Not in a negative way, but I never thought it would happen, at least for next season," Ricciardo told the West Australian newspaper.
"I knew there was a lot to be done. But I had 20 races to get through this year and to prove that I could be something extraordinary to take that seat."
Scoring a meagre 6 points so far, Toro Rosso has had a tough 2012 season after ousting former drivers Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari at the end of last year.
Still, Ricciardo thinks he has done enough to at least keep the seat for 2013.
"I don't think they're searching for someone to replace me yet, unless the season goes pretty poorly from here.
"But if I continue what I'm doing or even improve a bit - that would be nice - I estimate I would stay here."