Motorsport 9.8.2018 09:10 am

Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault F1 team is not a surprise

Daniel Ricciardo drinks champagne out of his shoe as he celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo drinks champagne out of his shoe as he celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix

But it came as a bombshell as it was assumed he was staying put for now.

It appears the media are genuinely surprised at the “shock” announcement by Daniel Ricciardo that he will be leaving Aston Martin Red Bull at the end of the season to join the Renault F1 team.

Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner was apparently as surprised by the missive as the British press, according to a report on planetf1.com accredited to the Daily Mail.

Rumours regarding the Australian’s future have been doing the rounds for months. But with no real commitment from any of the predicted teams it looked as though his future would remain with the Red Bull outfit.

Ricciardo initially stated his decision would be made before the start of the summer recess and then suggested it would be before the season resumed at Spa Francorchamps.

So it was assumed that he had reached an agreement with the organisation that had taken him under their wing as part of the Red Bull junior programme, through Toro Rosso to the F1 team where he partnered four times world champion Sebastian Vettel.

It was reported that Ricciardo had “agreed terms” with Red Bull for 2019, the team having accepted his request for just a one year contract, but on Thursday the bombshell dropped.

He phoned Horner and informed him that he would not be staying with the team. Horner thought he “was joking”, but the Perth-born 29-year-old was very serious.

“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far. But I thought it was time for me to take on a new challenge,“ he said in the official Renault press release.

Ricciardo continued: “I realise there is a lot ahead to allow Renault to reach their target of competing at the highest level.

“However, I have been impressed by their progression in only two years and I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won. I hope to be able to help them in this journey and contribute on and off track.”

The new deal is reported as being a two-season contract at £20 million (R348 million) per annum.

The Daily Mail is reported as saying that people at Red Bull were of the opinion that “Ricciardo is running away from team-mate Max Verstappen”.

I cannot agree with that as I do not believe Ricciardo is one to back down in any situation, unless it is in his interests to do so.

Verstappen is blindingly fast but Ricciardo’s race craft, which has been honed for many years in motorsport, including 141 Grands Prix, which have earned him 934 points to date, is an invaluable attribute.

Is he making a similar move to Michael Schumacher when the German moved to Ferrari, at the time a team struggling for success, or is he making a bad career decision? I believe it is the former.

I think his motivation is positive and sincerely hope will bring him that elusive world title, something the Red Bull cars have not been able to supply. Perhaps Renault will.

Was I surprised at his move?

Absolutely not. I think it’s been on Ricciardo’s mind since last season following Christian Horner’s statement that he wants to “build a team” around Verstappen.

This surely indicated to Ricciardo he would be playing “wingman” to the Dutchman and this would definitely lessen his chances of a shot at the championship.

So with Ricciardo in at Renault with Nico Hulkenberg as a team mate, what happens to Carlos Sainz? The young Spaniard was “on loan” to Renault from Red Bull so is he moving back to partner Verstappen.

Rumours are of a move to McLaren alongside fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso. But we have no idea of whether Alonso will remain with the Woking team and if it would be the correct move for Sainz.

Comments about the future of development at McLaren by Zak Brown certainly are not appealing to a young driver. Predictions of years before McLaren is back at the top cannot be the most exciting prospect for Sainz.

In fact, the driver line-up for next season is very open at present with very few of the current crop confirmed.

Mercedes have Hamilton and Bottas confirmed, Renault with Ricciardo and Hulkenberg, Ferrari confirmed Vettel, Red Bull with Verstappen.

All other teams have yet to confirm drivers for 2019.

It could be an interesting year.

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