Daniel Ricciardo will almost certainly make his Grand Prix debut with Toro Rosso in 2012, team boss Franz Tost has admitted in Turkey.
Now at the very top of Red Bull's junior programme, the 21-year-old Australian is travelling with the Italian team throughout the 2011 season to drive the STR6 on Friday mornings.
Tost told reporters at Istanbul Park that the programme is a precursor to Ricciardo's proper race debut next season.
"He should learn the team, all the race tracks, to work together with the engineers, get a little bit of knowledge about the press work, about the marketing and this should be the preparation for him to race for Toro Rosso in 2012," said the Austrian.
It has been suggested Ricciardo could even replace either Sebastien Buemi or Jaime Alguersuari before 2012, but when asked Tost answered: "No, currently not."
we keep an eye on how the Toro Rosso drivers are developing
Another possibility is that Buemi or Alguersuari could replace Mark Webber at the senior team next year, but Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner played down those rumours in Turkey.
"Of course we keep an eye on how the Toro Rosso drivers are developing but it's way too premature to be speculating on whether or not they will sit in a Red Bull racing car," he insisted.
"We're happy with our current lineup and that's what we're focused on," added Horner.