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Analysis: Why Daniel Ricciardo has committed his F1 future to Red Bull, not Ferrari

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Analysis: Why Daniel Ricciardo has committed his F1 future to Red Bull, not Ferrari
Jun 30, 2016, 6:06 PM

Daniel Ricciardo confirmed today that he will stay at Red Bull to at least the end of the 2018 season, a decision based on believing he can challen...

Daniel Ricciardo confirmed today that he will stay at Red Bull to at least the end of the 2018 season, a decision based on believing he can challenge for next season's world championship.

The Australian, who will turn 27 on Friday, has won three races with the Anglo Austrian team, but has been the subject of interest from Ferrari. The Italian giant has been cautious about pairing him with its lead driver Sebastian Vettel, after the German was beaten by the younger man in 2014 at Red Bull, but Vettel has said he would not mind teaming up with Ricciardo again.

That prospect is now off the table because Ricciardo has committed to Red Bull as the Austrian drinks manufacture takes care of business with its roster of drivers. Yesterday it took up the option on Carlos Sainz for another year and in May it signed Max Verstappen to a long term deal and moved him up to the main Red Bull team. It puts them in a strong position both on the driver front to capitalise on what is expected to be a competitive car next season.

This site has been arguing for some time - especially after the Monaco Grand Prix debacle - that Ricciardo's best interests would be served by staying at Red Bull. With the 2017 chassis regulations likely to favour their class-leading aerodynamics department and the Renault engine converging quickly on the Mercedes and Ferrari units on performance, there is every chance that Ricciardo will be able to fight for the 2017 world championship. He has proven himself to be one of the fastest and most consistent drivers in the field and the next two seasons are his opportunity.

Daniel Ricciardo

He was asked by this writer in today's press conference in Austria, 'Can you confirm today that you are staying with Red Bull until at least the end of 2018?'

He replied, "Yeah. Yeah."

'But obviously a big part of that is it is your own decision to do that rather than take any other options or look at other options?' he was asked.

"Absolutely," he replied. "It goes both sides for sure. We want to win. This year is going to be tough for a world title. But looking ahead to next year and spending time with the team and seeing what’s ahead I think it’s the best place to be to try to challenge Mercedes, so that’s where it stems from."

Later on he was asked about his team mate Max Verstappen and how their relationship is likely to pan out over the next few years. Verstappen, 19, has yet to out qualify Ricciardo in their four races as team mates, but he outraced him in Canada and was fortunate to beat him to the victory in Spain, when the team split the strategies and the Dutchman's proved the better one.

Verstappen, Ricciardo

"It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in the long run," said Ricciardo.

"I can obviously speak for the first few races and it’s been good. Max came in and set a bit of a tone in Barcelona. That was obviously a pretty crazy weekend and I think since then it’s been good. Obviously Monaco didn’t work as well for him and he openly admitted it and took it on the chin. In a way we’ve thrived off the new challenge, the new rivalry, so hopefully it can keep pushing the team in the right direction.

"Hopefully there is some rivalry. A rivalry would probably mean we’re fighting for victories more often. Sure you can still have a healthy one. I think if you’re mature about it and if you can basically just admit if one guys better on the day and be open about it, then you’ll have good respect for each other. It’s probably when you start making excuses out of nothing, is when it doesn’t work out so well.

"Keep going hard and, so far, so good."

Interestingly, for students of body language, as he spoke the words above about Verstappen, Ricciardo wiped his left eye a couple of times with his thumb, which is a classic 'tell' of sadness. How real that is, time will tell.

The front of the field is now looking quite settled for the long term with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, Ricciardo and Verstappen at Red Bull and only the second Ferrari seat is the big question mark. As Verstappen and Ricciardo are now locked down and Sainz has been taken off the market by Red Bull for at least another year, the list of possible candidates for Raikkonen's seat is shortening.

Romain Grosjean hopes to have a chance, but he's been out qualified twice in the last three races by Haas F1 team mate Esteban Gutierrez, who is a known quantity at Ferrari. Valtteri Bottas appears to have flatlined and while Sergio Perez enjoys backing from Ferrari's Mexican sponsors under the Carlos Slim umbrella, he is also well nested in and happy at Force India.

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