RICCIARDO'S BIG DECISION TO MOVE TO RENAULT
News has come about in the last 24 hours that Australian formula one driver Daniel Ricciardo has shockingly decided to leave Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season, to join French company Renault on a two year deal. Ricciardo released a statement yesterday on the decision, stating "It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far, but I thought that it was time for me to take on a fresh and new challenge."
The 29 year old young gun joined the English-Austrian team in 2014, with a promising attitude, and has since won seven grand prix with them, also stating "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."
Red Bull had earlier confirmed Ricciardo would not be on its team next year. "We fully respect Daniel's decision to leave Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and we wish him all the best in his future," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "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.
He is currently fifth in the drivers championship standings, after some sluggish race results caused by reliability issues with the Renault-sourced power units, and battles with young and risk taking team mate Max Verstappen. The decision has caused controversy among F1 fans, and has split experts, each with different opinions on the matter.
Mercedes and Ferrari were ruled out after Mercedes retained titleholder Lewis Hamilton and Finland's Valtteri Bottas, and Ferrari had shown no obvious interest either, with Sauber's Monegasque rookie Charles Leclerc tipped to replace Kimi Raikkonen if the 38-year-old 2007 world champion is not kept on.
This had left Red Bull, Mclaren and Renault as the only options available, but with Mclaren using the same troubled power unit as Red Bull — a Renault customer engine — the only options available to Ricciardo were to stay at Red Bull — which will move into the unknown with a Honda engine next season — or become the lead driver at Renault.
I myself being a fellow Aussie am excited for the possibilities that this could bring for the driver, but at the same time I'm concerned about the risks that this decision brings with it. While it has surprised many, including me, at the same time I expected that he would move to a different team.
Ricciardo is known for his iconic victory ritual, "The Shoey", and his permanent smile, which has led to his nickname "The Colgate Kid" coming about.
BUT THE BIG QUESTION ON EVERYONE'S MIND IS - WILL HIS PLAN WORK?
Red Bull have had large reliability issues with their Renault-sourced "customer" power units this year, and have announced that they will be switching to the engines made by the Japanese marque at the beginning of 2019.
The reliability of Honda power units in F1 has already been questioned, after McLaren used them in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons, with terrible results, that saw Mclaren driver and all time F1 legend Fernando Alonso threaten to walk out on the New Zealand-founded Woking team.
For Red Bull to announce that they will be using the Honda engines next year concerns some, but Christian Horner had previously come out and stated that Red Bull’s future Formula 1 engine supplier is at a “very similar” level of performance to their current partner.
The engines had the performance and power needed to keep up with Ferrari and Mercedes, but the reliability of the engines is what had let the team down. If the reliability of the Honda engines turns out to exceed that of the Renault power units, Ricciardo may be left eating his words, but it also depends on what happens at Renault.
Ricciardo has walked into Renault's doors at an intense time. The previous two years had been spent by the team sorting out the nitty gritty parts to be certain that it could perform well with the right drivers. Ricciardo is entering Renault while they are still in their "rebuilding stage", and this can pose serious risks to the drivers future.
To waste the two years Ricciardo has with the team by helping "rebuild" could be catastrophic. Ricciardo himself has stated that he is in the "prime of his career", which is where he has the best chance of snatching the Drivers Title, and even possibly the Constructors Championship for his team.
But it also has to be remembered that Red Bull had Renault Customer engines, which were horrible in terms of reliability, but they had a great handling and performing chassis, which helped propel them to the top of the lap boards. On the other hand, Renault have factory engines, which may turn out to be far better performing, but the waters in terms of chassis performance are still very uncharted and may end up leading to Ricciardo's downfall.
SO WHAT'S NEXT FOR OTHER DRIVERS?
Ricciardo's move has sent shockwaves through the drivers market, due to his skill as a driver and the doors it opens up for other drivers. Ricciardo has moved to Renault with German driver Nico Hulkenberg, with Carlos Sainz Junior moving out of Renault, possibly to Red Bull, to make way for Ricciardo. He could also move to McLaren to join up with Fernando Alonso to make an all Spanish team.
Anyone think they know what will happen? Got any article suggestions? Let me know below and I'll be in touch.
And to catch up on more of this important Ricciardo news as it develops over the next few weeks, be sure to join me and Austin here on Motorsport Rumours.