Christian Horner believes Ricciardo’s impending move to Renault is an “enormous risk”
“I can’t help but feel he wants to be a leading role perhaps in a smaller environment,” said Horner.
After months of mounting expectation the Australian would sign a new deal with Red Bull, Ricciardo informed the team last week as he embarked on his summer holidays that he had signed a two-year deal with Renault for 2019 and 2020.
“It’s a great shame that he has chosen to leave the team,” Red Bull chief Christian Horner told F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast. “He feels Renault are in the ascendancy. I can’t help but feel he wants to be a leading role perhaps in a smaller environment
Ricciardo said he wanted “a fresh and new challenge” next year, and emphasised the impressive record of Renault in F1 over the history of the sport. Yet Horner suspects that the prospect of going up against current teammate Verstappen as he becomes a stronger driver also played a part.
Renault are currently fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, and Horner continued: “Daniel said he decided after a long flight to America that he had decided he wanted a change. If you look at the rational reasons for that, it’s difficult to understand.”
Red Bull have hailed Ricciardo and Verstappen, team-mates for the last three seasons, as the strongest driver line-up in F1. But a strength can also be a weakness and Horner believes Verstappen’s prowess was a critical factor in Ricciardo’s shock decision to depart and partner Nico Hulkenberg at Renault next year.
“The competition between him and Max is intense.,” Horner said. “Max is growing stronger and stronger. I think Daniel has decided the time is right for him to check out and try something else.
“Daniel had his reasons. I think it comes back to wanting to take on, in his words, ‘a new challenge’.
“But I also feel he sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn’t want to play a support role I guess, for want of better words.
“It’s not that they were treated in any way different. They would have equal status, as they have always had. I can’t help but feel that was perhaps a large part of Daniel’s decision making.”
Horner added: “I could understand if it was to Ferrari or Mercedes. But it’s an enormous risk at his stage in his career.”