Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo says that his decision to leave Red Bull for Renault was influenced by his former team’s decision to swap to Honda power.
Ricciardo looked like a shoe-in to remain at Red Bull for this year after his Monaco victory last season but it became evident as the summer wore on that discussions were not proceeding quite as easily as initially thought. With no announcement of an extension and both parties remaining tight-lipped, it was a shock when the announcement was made that the popular Australian driver had decided to leave to join Renault.
In 2018, Red Bull were very much the more competitive outfit, although were a Renault customer. Ricciardo’s move to the factory team could thus be seen as a step back from the front of the grid, something he is aware of. However, he says Red Bull’s switch to Honda power helped sway his decision to leave as he felt their competitiveness couldn’t be guaranteed either.
“Part of the risk was Honda and whether they perform or not. I’m coming here to Renault and yes, I want to win, but the expectation is that we won’t this year. We want to improve and, if we do, awesome.”
At Red Bull, it was like “OK this year is going to be our year” and there’s nothing wrong with that. The risk of being let down and disappointed is much higher. I went there after they’d won four world titles so I was like “Oh I’m gonna have a World Championship car.” For five years, that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t all bad, don’t get me wrong. If the move with Honda doesn’t work, then it was just more risky for my happiness within the team and everyone’s motivation. So there’s less risk by coming to Renault and there’s more room for us to grow. Every year, Renault have grown and improved.”
With some mildly critical comments emanating from the Red Bull camp after his departure, Ricciardo was asked whether he felt any negativity towards his former team. He quickly refuted: “I don’t look back on it negatively at all, they gave me all my current milestones in F1. I’ll look back and obviously go “Oh, I wish you’d signed me for 2013!” That would have been awesome or, you know, Mark Webber retiring a year earlier. But I don’t look back bitterly. They provided me with amazing opportunities and that’s just how the sport is. It’s how it works. That was the best option I had, and it wasn’t all negative. The five years of coming close but not close enough; I felt if I did another year or two with the same outcome, I felt that was the risk I had to take with and go “It’s time to make a change.” That’s the personal thing, I could have gotten demotivated or frustrated.”
“[Here], I don’t know everyone’s name yet but I feel like I’m welcomed. There’s a lot to learn technically and from the car. From the environment, I’m very comfortable. I’ve a good relationship with Nico, and I’m glad to be the young guy in a team again – I’ve been the old guy the last few years! I have no concerns and, with his experience and how long he’s been around, I think there’s far less risk of one of us losing our minds.”