According to Red Bull Racing, a deal had been done. They had everything Daniel Ricciardo was looking for, a top 3 team, the ability to fight for race wins, and a team that could have a chance at winning championships. With first driver positions secured by Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, the only option that fits Ricciardo’s requirements were Red Bull Racing. That is what makes his move to Renault Sport F1 all the more intriguing.
When thinking about the top teams that have recently dominated Formula One, they are works teams. Mercedes and Ferrari have dominated the field because they can outspend, out design, and produce wins in the factory before starting their engines for a race weekend. With Renault being the only other works team on the grid, it is easy to see how a driver of Ricciardo’s caliber could have gravitated toward the French manufacturer. It has been stated that Renault is committed to spending the necessary dollars into becoming a championship-winning team again. Currently, Renault Sport F1 are fourth in the constructors’ championship, trailing Riccardo’s current team Red Bull by 162 points and 329 points behind first-place Mercedes. To say they have their work cut out for themselves to reach that lofty goal of championship contenders would be an understatement.
Red Bull Racing confirmed the switch to a Honda power unit for their next two seasons, ending a 12-year partnership with Renault as their sole engine supplier since 2007. When looking at Ricciardo’s racing history, Renault has been a part of his professional racing upbringing. Saying that the switch to Honda wasn’t a factor in his decision making, it does seem that the sense of familiarity with Renault was a significant positive in his choice.
Ricciardo wanted to be the number one driver on a race team. The philosophy that Red Bull employs is that their drivers are 1a and 1b. Neither driver has preference unlike their rivals at Mercedes and Ferrari, who use their second drivers as a pawn to create the best advantage for their first drivers. This philosophy came to a head at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where both drivers wrecked themselves out of a finish. Ricciardo was faster than his teammate Max Verstappen. But because of their internal team philosophy, contact was made where other teams couldn’t have fathomed happening. The move to Renault Sport F1 gives Ricciardo the important first driver role and gets him away from Verstappen, whom many believe in having a higher ceiling than Ricciardo. Having just signed a contract extension himself this year, the Dutchman is thought to be the unannounced apple of Red Bull’s’ eye since joining the senior team
By forgoing a long term contract at Red Bull, the two-year deal Ricciardo signed with Renault Sport F1 gives him flexibility. If Renault can not become a consistent championship-contending team, then a ride at a top team could still be in the cards. Both Vettel and Hamilton’s contracts also expire at the end of the 2020 season and the ripe age of 31, Ricciardo could be victorious in a long term strategy. If Renault improves drastically, then Ricciardo copies the shocking move Hamilton announced in 2012. If not, then he hopes that there is a seat open for him when the music stops.