Daniel Ricciardo has knocked back suggestions that he is currently in negotiations with Ferrari about a race seat for 2019 while facing the media on Thursday ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Ricciardo, who is out of contract with Red Bull Racing at season’s end, denied rumours circling the paddock earlier in the week that he was in a pre-contract agreement with Ferrari for next season. The Australian did, however, mention his only requirement for his next contract is that it can put him in a title-fighting position.
“The real requirement obviously is to try and put myself in a position to win a world title,” Ricciardo said on Thursday afternoon. “It doesn’t mean where I am currently is not that place but I think that’s why I’m trying to take my time with it because it’s still too early.
“Obviously we won the last race [the Chinese Grand Prix], that was great but realistically we need to win more than just once in the season to fight for a title so that’s why I’m going to take my time, but that’s the priority for sure and I guess the financials and all that are definitely behind that [as priorities].
Many followers of the sport have disputed that the 28-year old should change to a different team, arguing it is only for the better as most feel Red Bull Racing is still not up for the title battle in the turbo-hybrid era. But Ricciardo has made it clear it’s not about change, it’s about opportunity.
“The curiosity will not overcome the facts. I guess, in terms of what options I will have, which car is ultimately the fastest I can be with,” he explained.
“Obviously that’s really top of my list. So yeah, I wouldn’t just… go somewhere else just for a change. If I did move on obviously I’d want to make sure it was something I feel would potentially be better. That’s all really.”
Clarity naturally has also been a demand for the Australian. Although it hasn’t been an issue while being at Red Bull Racing, joining a team like Mercedes or Ferrari and starting off a season slowly risks Ricciardo falling behind for the rest of the year and acting as a second driver to the team similar to how Kimi Räikkönen has been perceived to be treated numerous times since his return to Ferrari in 2014.
“These are certainly things that I would… wherever I may be or go, make sure that there was some clarity,” pressed Ricciardo.
“I wouldn’t want to go somewhere where I didn’t feel I had a chance. At the moment that’s what I’m chasing – try and be World Champion. I really believe I’m capable of (doing it), so yeah, if someone said ‘We’ll let you here but you can’t do this’, that’s not an attractive option to me.
“At Red Bull, there’s always been really good clarity and I would say fairness, since I’ve been there. That’s been certainly a nice environment and I would expect that environment everywhere.”
But does Ricciardo owe loyalty to his Red Bull Racing team?
The talent-seeking and career-building – and ending – regime that is the Red Bull Junior program under the helm of Dr Helmut Marko has paid dividends to Ricciardo so far, along with successfully delivering former teammate Sebastian Vettel four Formula 1 World Championship titles and cementing upcoming talent Carlos Sainz Jr. with a great pathway to F1 success.
In this circumstance, Ricciardo’s now been inducted into the world of Formula 1 and with six race wins under his belt, he’s ready to challenge for championship credentials. Red Bull, unfortunately, can’t feed him anymore “fresh success”, and it’s not through the fault of the team.
“There will always be a bit of that (loyalty), for sure,” added Ricciardo.
“It’s ten years since I was in the Red Bull Junior Team. So it’s a long time and they really set it up for me, to make all this happen. There will always be that. (But) at some point, you’ve got to weigh-up what does (work and) what (doesn’t).
“I’ve only had talks with Red Bull. Even already last year, we’ve been pretty open with each other, and through the media as well, I think everyone is aware they’re interested in keeping me. We’ve had some talks regarding that obviously.”
So, is the six-time Grand Prix winner acting or waiting? Whatever he is doing, he is keeping it low-key. Nevertheless, we are only three races into the season yet to hit the European leg.
Ricciardo has time and crucially, he has the talent to end up sitting in some sort of seat by next year.
“I don’t really fear not having a seat next year, so I don’t feel that I need to sign something tomorrow or I will have nothing,” assured Ricciardo.
“I guess for that reason I feel like I can see until the summer what’s happening.
“If nothing has happened since then, then yeah, I guess I think of Plan B or whatever that is and if it’s only then Red Bull, then that’s where I am at so yeah, but I don’t really feel that I need to push anything until then.
“I’ve got a small little group, a network, around me and as far as the real negotiations go. I’ve got a guy doing that for me. I’m obviously super aware and invested in what I want and where I see myself I guess, but as far as the real in-depth talks and all that, I think it’s best for me not to really focus on that too much.
“I’ve been getting asked the same questions since Max re-signed [in Austin] and it hasn’t got me [concerned]. I don’t overcomplicate it. I guess with the people around me I keep it pretty small and I’m happy with that.”
Images via Red Bull Racing