A surprise switch to Renault from Red Bull may be on the cards for Daniel Ricciardo.Update: Red Bull Racing have confirmed Daniel Ricciardo is leaving the team at the end of 2018. No further announcements have been made.
While Red Bull Racing announced Max Verstappen as continuing with the team for 2019 back in May, their second seat remains unconfirmed. While Daniel Ricciardo looked nailed on to stay at the team after his Monaco Grand Prix victory, a change to Honda power units seemed to stall any formal decision from either party.
Two months later, and not much has changed. According to Ricciardo, a deal is set to be announced shortly: “It’ll definitely be done by Spa so whether it gets announced over the break or at Spa….but it’s just a little bit of fine-tuning.
“It’s all good. You will hear something soon, I’m sure.”
However, reports on Friday suggest that Ricciardo may be being obtuse in what he’s been saying, and may be about to sign a deal with the Renault factory team. According to RaceFans.net Dieter Rencken, he is set to swap to the French team from next season.
This will throw the driver market into chaos. A much-mooted switch to the Renault team for Esteban Ocon would be blocked, as Nico Hulkenberg is already confirmed for Renault. Ricciardo’s seat would need to be filled, with the obvious candidate being Carlos Sainz. The Spanish driver was loaned out to Renault from Red Bull this season, but is a free agent for next year with no confirmed deal. However, it’s not clear whether Red Bull would team Sainz & Verstappen up, as they were said to not get along as teammates while at Toro Rosso together in 2015.
Pierre Gasly, currently racing with Toro Rosso, is another prospect for the Red Bull seat if Ricciardo departs.
Should Ricciardo leave, it suggests the Australian driver is not convinced by the prospect of racing with Honda power units, or feels the team’s focus rests on his younger teammate Max Verstappen. The Renault team have been slowly getting more and more competitive since their return as a works effort in 2016, but the Renault power unit itself has been problematic in terms of power and reliability, with no significant signs of progress compared to Ferrari & Mercedes. Constant reliability issues with Renault have plagued Red Bull, with Ricciardo signing off before the summer break by saying: “I need some time away from the car; I am growing frustrated with these problems. Probably healthy for me as well to have a bit of time off.”