Red Bull Racing have announced that Daniel Riccardo will leave the team at the end of the current 2018 season, with Renault being his confirmed destination just an hour later.
The Milton Keynes based squad had been in talks with Riccardo and the Australian had been expected to resign for the Red Bull company, a sponsor who has backed him since 2008, but the announcement came this morning that Riccardo would leave the squad at the end of 2018.
About an hour after this announcement, Renault Sport Formula One Team released the news that was in the rumour mill, that Riccardo would join the French manufacturer for the next two seasons and would team up with German Nico Hulkenburg for 2019.
“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far” said the 29-year-old in a Renault statement. “But I thought that it was time for me to take on a fresh and new challenge. I realise that there is a lot ahead in order to allow Renault to reach their target of competition get at the highest level but I have been impressed by their progression in only two years. I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won. I hope to be able to help them in the journey and contribute on and off track”.
Strangely, the decision comes on the back of the row between the two teams after the Hungarian Grand Prix, where Red Bull claim Renault were providing the team with sub-hstandard engine parts (after Verstappen’s retirement in Hungary and Riccardo’s engine penalties in Germany) whereas the French team announced that Red Bull had chosen not to run the newer and more reliable turbo’s on their engine due to the restrictions with their packaging. The partnership is ending at the end of the current season with Red Bull moving to the less fancied Honda engines.
Riccardo joined the Red Bull family in 2008 and went on to win numerous junior titles with the drinks manufacturing’s backing. After making his Formula 1 debut in 2011 for HRT, the Australian spent two seasons in the Scuderia Toro Rosso team before moving up to the main Red Bull team in 2014, beating the four time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the process. Riccardo currently has seven victories and two pole positions in Formula 1, all with Red Bull Racing.
Commenting in the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing press release, team principle Christian Horner did not underestimate what Riccardo had done for the team. “We fully respect Daniel’s decision to leave Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and we wish him all the best in the future. We would like to thank him for his dedication and the role he has played since joining the team in 2014, the highlights of course being the seven wins and the 29 podiums he has achieved so far with us”
Whilst Horner did not speculate on what their other options were for 2019, it will be expected that Carlos Sainz or Pierre Gasly will be strong contenders as the next in-line for the Red Bull Junior Programme. Sainz, who was loaned out to Renault for 2018, had previously said he would not return to the Red Bull fold unless it was with the first team, whereas Gasly has impressed this season in the sister Toro Rosso team, including sixth in last weekend’s Hungarian GP.
This decision by Renault also cuts the options for Mercedes Junior Driver Esteban Ocon, who was expected to join the French squad from Force India.