London: Champions Red Bull will be keeping a close eye on Australian Daniel Ricciardo when he makes his Formula One debut with HRT at Silverstone this weekend but recognise he has a lot to learn.
"He's a really talented youngster, he's earned this opportunity to make his Formula One debut," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Reuters ahead of the British Grand Prix.
"I think he's a very gifted driver, certainly the work that he's done for us in the young driver tests and simulation has been very, very impressive.
Ricciardo, 22, will make his Formula One debut with HRT at Silverstone this weekend.
"But it's a first step on the ladder for him. He's still very young. it's an opportunity that's been presented to him and its now up to him to grab it."
Ricciardo, 22, is also a Red Bull reserve and has been doing regular Friday practice sessions for sister team Toro Rosso until now.
He has now replaced Indian Narain Karthikeyan in the HRT (Hispania) starting lineup with a view to measuring his potential and giving him experience before a likely race seat at Toro Rosso in 2012.
There has also been speculation that he could step directly in at Red Bull to replace compatriot Mark Webber, whose contract expires at the end of the season, alongside 24-year-old world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Horner said the youngster should take his time, although he might not need that much.
"He's got a learning curve to go through but as we see with these young drivers, they develop very quickly," he said.
"Look at (Force India's) Paul di Resta, look at Sebastian. They tend to develop very quickly. And Daniel is a very talented driver so it will be interesting to see how he progresses."
"Daniel has no experience of grand prix racing, he's got an awful lot to learn and HRT and Toro Rosso are the best environment for him to do that as Sebastian did with Toro Rosso in 2007 and 2008," Horner added.
"He needs time to develop, it would be wrong to rush him through. He's got to prove himself in Formula One now. He's proved himself in the lower category and now he needs to grab this opportunity and make the most of it."
Vettel, the runaway championship leader with a 77-point advantage after winning six of the first eight races, started seven grands prix with Toro Rosso in 2007 after making his debut as a stand-in for BMW-Sauber at Indianapolis that year.
He won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix with the team, their only success to date, and then moved to Red Bull at the end of that season.
Horner said Ricciardo also had huge potential but was still untested.
"I think he is very talented but it's one thing doing it in testing and it's another thing doing it under pressure. We'll see. We'll be keeping a very close eye on him," he said.
"It's a little bit like when Damon Hill jumped in the Brabham," he said referring to the Briton's 1992 debut with a struggling team while serving as test driver for the then-champions Williams.
The following season, Hill was a Williams race driver as team mate to Frenchman Alain Prost.
"He will still remain our test and reserve driver but he's effectively on loan to HRT," Horner said.