Smile on face of Red Bull's Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo just a ruse

Daniel Ricciardo is fiercely competitive under the helmet, and he will need to be if, as Mark Webber intimated, he replaces his Australian compatriot at Red Bull Racing next year.

Daniel Ricciardo has a perma-smile, but that hides a fiercely competitive nature when he lines up on the grid for Toro Rosso. Peter Fox / Getty Images
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is to believed, and it is not in the straight-talking Australian's character to mislead, then he will be replaced at

next season by compatriot Daniel Ricciardo.

Webber, who turns 37 on Tuesday, confirmed the appointment in an interview with Australian television on Sunday, saying: "We all know who it is. I'm happy with that decision. It's good for him and good for Australia".

The two drivers both hail from the same country and

, but they are certainly not cut from the same cloth. There is no particularly close bond between them, and separated by 13 years in age, the only real rapport is born from the fact they are F1's only Australians.

Webber's Twitter handle is @AussieGrit, which seems to perfectly encapsulate his willingness to defiantly say what he wants, when he wants. His opinion is always worth seeking out, regardless the subject. (In addition, his perma-stubble forever resembles gritty sandpaper.)

In contrast, Ricciardo is less provocative and more amenable. His Twitter handle is his name, plain and simple, but there is an argument to be made that he would have been better served by adopting the moniker @AussieGrin, such is his ever-friendly countenance. His opinions on matters outside the F1 paddock are rarely forthcoming.

On track, Webber had raced in F1 for seven years when he was joined by Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull in 2009. Understandably, he immediately resented being beaten by a young upstart.

When the two had collided a couple of years earlier in Japan, Webber referred to Vettel, then with Toro Rosso, as a "kid". Now it is Ricciardo's turn to graduate from the sister team to the constructors' champions, and at almost exactly two years younger than Vettel, there is no doubting the identity of the new kid on the block.

There has been little to suggest that Red Bull's new recruit, in his 42 race starts, does not have the ability to develop into a fitting replacement, capable not only of emulating, but eclipsing, the achievements of his older countryman.

Ricciardo's highest points finish so far is seventh, but he has shown improvement in qualifying, particularly this season.

Do not be fooled: the perma-smile is a ruse. Under the helmet, he is fiercely competitive, admitting once that "at risk of sounding like a bad sport", when he is beaten by teammate Jean-Eric Vergne he gets "[ticked] off, disappointed and angry with myself".

Fortunately for his mental health, his qualifying record against the Frenchman is 22 for 9 and he has proved far more consistent on Sundays, finishing all but three of his 31 races at Toro Rosso, compared to Vergne's eight retirements.

Such domination of his teammate will not be the case next year.

In Red Bull terms, Ricciardo is a safe choice: talented yet unlikely to upset the applecart that has been established so ruthlessly by golden child Vettel. Ricciardo, 24, is the typical backwards-baseball-cap athlete that the energy drinks company so often aligns itself with.

Kimi Raikkonen may have proven a more popular choice, but the straight-talking Finn, a 2007 world champion, threatened to immediately outclass Vettel and would not have toed any party lines if required. The last thing Red Bull want is disharmony - Webber's constant pursuit of equality brought enough of that.

Instead, Ricciardo will arrive at the Milton Keynes marque with little to lose. If he challenges his teammate, he will inevitably be fighting for pole positions and race wins.

If he fails to get close to Vettel, 26, he is being beaten by a three-time (potentially four-time) world champion. No shame in that.

The idea of him regularly outpacing his teammate seems unlikely at this stage, yet the foundations are now in place for him to develop. When Vettel eventually decides to jump ship and fulfil his dream of racing for Ferrari, Red Bull will know whether Ricciardo is worthy of being their new No 1 driver or whether they have to recruit from outside.

"To race alongside Sebastian, you better have what it takes if you are not planning to drown," Franz Tost, the Toro Rosso team principal, said recently.

As Webber found out the hard way, Vettel has become the big fish at Red Bull; the shark in the pond.

Whether Ricciardo is ready to sink or swim will become clear in March next year, but for now, instinct suggests race wins rather than championship wins is what will be served up by the guy with the Aussie Grin.

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