Red Bull Racing’s team principal Christian Horner has issued a deadline for Daniel Ricciardo to sign a new deal with the team.
Ricciardo’s contract expires at the end of the current season and, with the Australian’s stock higher than ever after his Chinese Grand Prix triumph, he has been linked with a move away from the Milton Keynes team.
Both Mercedes and Ferrari are thought to be interested in securing his services for 2019 onwards, with recent rumours suggesting that Ferrari is the more likely option.
Whilst Horner maintains that Red Bull do not want to let Ricciardo go, the team would be unwilling to wait for too long and miss out on other targets.
“There should be a decision by the summer break at the latest,” team principal Horner told Auto Motor und Sport. “We do not want to wait forever.”
The primary candidate as a potential replacement for Ricciardo would be Renault’s Carlos Sainz.
Sainz spent 2015, 2016 and most of 2017 racing for Red Bull’s junior team, Toro Rosso, and is still contracted to the Red Bull stable, but he is currently on a season-long loan at Renault.
“Our priority is to continue working with Daniel,” added Horner. “If that does not work, we’ll go for the other options.
“The most obvious is Carlos Sainz. He is under contract with us. And then there are a few young drivers.”
Whoever drives for Red Bull in 2019 will race alongside Max Verstappen, who signed a multi-year contract extension last year.
The contracts of both Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas expire at the end of the season, whilst the current contract of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen is also to the end of the year.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel signed a new three-year deal towards the end of last season.