Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Daniel Ricciardo would be “bold” to join either McLaren or Renault given the performance difference between the teams at present.
Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a move to McLaren with Fernando Alonso’s future unclear. With the Australian admitting he has some interest in being the lead driver tasked with getting either McLaren or Renault to the front in F1, Horner is hopeful of keeping hold of Ricciardo and believes Red Bull’s performance would make such a switch a risk.
“The situation with Daniel, I think that there is an intent from both sides to move forward,” Horner said. “The first thing was to close the situation with the engine. That has now been done. Daniel understands the rationale, the engineering rationale, behind that.
“Let’s not forget that he has been in a car that in the last couple of grands prix has been lapping the cars to our left [Renault and McLaren]. So it would be a fairly bold decision to step out of a car that he has won two grands prix in this year as a championship contender. I would be surprised if he was to leave, because it’s a good fit between himself and Red Bull, but it is Formula 1.”
Speaking in the same press conference alongside Horner, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier admits his team has had contact with Ricciardo about a potential move.
“It’s obviously this time of year that you start to think about your driver line-up for the following year or following years,” Boullier said. “Obviously we love Daniel, I personally have known him for many, many years. He is doing a good job with Red Bull.
“As long as a driver of that caliber is on the market you look if there is any discussion possible, but at this time of year it’s still too early to talk about our driver line-up for the future, so just a normal, gentle discussion.”
And Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul also suggests he is watching the Ricciardo situation with interest as he expects to lose Carlos Sainz at the end of this season.
“We have in Nico [Hulkenberg] and Carlos a very strong line-up,” Abiteboul said. “I am extremely pleased with the way that they are developing together. They are performing and they are also driving the team and building the team. For the time being it’s a bit early to talk about the future.
“Obviously we have a particular situation with Carlos, in the sense that he is on a loan to us from Christian and Red Bull. So we have to see. We can say that it is unconnected to engine decisions but it’s not.
“Frankly Carlos was loaned to us because of all the musical chairs that happened last year, so it was part of that agreement. So I expect that there will be some collateral consequences and that’s something that frankly we are here to discuss with Red Bull and I’m pretty sure that we will discuss that in the next few weeks.
“We need to watch out for any driver development from Red Bull’s side first and the collateral consequences that it may have on us. For the time being our focus is on developing the best car possible. If we show that we can progress, if we show that we can build a good car, drivers will get interested in joining us. We have to focus on that first and foremost.”