Daniel Ricciardo has left Red Bull. How does this change the driver market?
I don't think it I would be going to far to say that we were all a bit shocked after the news this morning that Ricciardo was on his way to Renault, but this has bigger consequences than it seems at first. As it was previously reported, Ocon was on the verge of signing for Renault, but his plan has now been scuppered, which leaves him stuck at Force India. This move also leaves Carlos Sainz without a seat, but an empty seat at Red Bull, who he is on loan from. However, it seems like Gasly is now the favourite to get the drive, which opens up a seat at Toro Rosso. We have got a lot to get through, and read carefully as it might get a bit confusing.
Has Ricciardo made the right decision?
Firstly, let's start with the obvious question, but the one that is probably the hardest to answer. There are many different opinions as to whether Ricciardo has made the right decision, but they are only opinions, as we just don't know. This is firstly because we don't know how much Renault will improve by in 2019, but based on their progression since becoming a works outfit in 2016, you would have to say they would at least be challenging for podiums, as they are looking a clear 'best of the rest' this season.
Another point to consider is that Red Bull are making the switch to Honda power next year, which could either be a stroke of genius by the team, or they could end up with the same fate as McLaren - if this happens, this could be the best decision Ricciardo has ever made, and probably will make in his career.
There are also rumours that Ricciardo got frustrated at the fact Red Bull had made Max Verstappen their number one driver, amplified by how lucrative the deal that he signed at the end of last year was, which made Verstappen the third best paid driver on the grid behind just Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
In my opinion, I think that this is a question that can't really be answered at the moment, but what I can say is that I think it has the potential to be a great move. If Renault keep up their level of improvement and Ricciardo can build the team around him, much like Lewis has done at Mercedes, they could be very successful. Only time will tell.
This is what Ricciardo had to say about the move:
“I realise that there is a lot ahead in order to allow Renault to reach their target of competing at the highest level but I have been impressed by their progression in only two years, and I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won. I hope to be able to help them in this journey and contribute on and off track."
If the rumours are to be believed...
Currently, the 2019 grid looks pretty empty:
Before I begin, let me say that you should take the following few paragraphs with a pinch of salt, as they are all predictions based on rumours that have been circulating recently. Using these rumours, I have filled in the above table to form a predicted/probably not completely correct 2019 grid:
The following is an attempt to break down what has happened if the rumours are to be believed.
Firstly, as Ricciardo has moved to Renault, this has forced Carlos Sainz out of the team (Hulkenberg was also confirmed today). Now, as he is contracted to Red Bull, the first thing you would think is that he would partner Max Verstappen next year, but that is not looking likely (although still possible) for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the bosses at Red Bull are worried that him and Verstappen wouldn't get on as teammates, as they didn't have the greatest of relationships when they were together at Toro Rosso. This is more important as it first seems, as we all saw how destructive it can be to a championship fight: Just ask Nico Rosberg.
The second reason that a move to Red Bull is looking unlikely is that Sainz has been heavily linked to McLaren in recent weeks. If this turns out to be true, it is looking more likely that Stoffel Vandoorne will be dropped, with Fernando Alonso staying on for another year (the pair are quite good friends, and Sainz has admitted that Alonso was his idol when growing up).
With both seats now theoretically taken at McLaren, Stoffel Vandoorne will now be looking for a drive. Due to the now high chance that Charles LeClerc is going to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, this will leave a space open at Sauber. Now, you may be wondering why they would go for Vandoorne over a Ferrari Academy driver such as Antonio Giovinazzi, but as it turns out the team principal of Sauber Frederic Vasseur has a soft spot for Stoffel Vandoorne as he was the team principal of the ART Grand Prix Formula 2 (then GP2) team when Vandoorne won the title for them in 2015. Also, it looks like Marcus Ericsson will yet again retain his seat due to the money he brings in as well as his close relationship with the team's owners.
Due to the huge amount of errors that Romain Grojean has made, it is widely assumed that he will be dropped by Haas, and replaced by Sergio Perez. This is due to the recent money problems at Force India, and because of how strong Haas have been this year. This would then make room at Force India, where Lawrence Stroll is set to become a majority shareholder, with his son, Lance filling the spare seat, partnering Esteban Ocon (who came very close to signing for Renault).
Pierre Gasly is the favourite to get the seat at Red Bull, as he has put in a few stellar performances at Toro Rosso this year, and doesn't have a bad relationship with Max Verstappen. If Gasly does leave Toro Rosso, it looks like the drive would go to Lando Norris, who would effectively be put on loan from McLaren in return for their technical director, James Key. Before Ricciardo left, it seemed as if Brendon Hartley would be dropped, but after a few solid drives and Dan Ticktum not having enough points on his super license, it would make sense to keep him for another year.
Finally, as Lance Stroll could be on his way out from Williams, the drive could go to their reserve driver, Robert Kubica. This would be a highly popular move, and finally give Williams some good press coverage, and boost their chances of finding a new title sponsor after Martini announced that they would not be renewing their contract beyond 2018. Sergey Sirotkin is expected to stay, mainly due to the money he brings into the team.
If you're still following me, congratulations, you have reached the end. What you should be able to take away from this is that Ricciardo could have just set off a domino effect in the driver market, and we will all be following it intently throughout the summer break.
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What do you think?
Who will move where for 2019? Make sure to let me know in the comments, or over on my Twitter.
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