Renault wanted Ricciardo as part of engine deal
Renault made a bold attempt to try to get Daniel Ricciardo off Red Bull for 2018 as part of the deal to cancel its engine contract with Toro Rosso, multiple sources with good knowledge of the situation have revealed.
One of the key parts of the complicated jigsaw that has allowed McLaren and Toro Rosso to swap engines for next year was arranging an incentive for Renault to shift its customer supply from Faenza to Woking.
Renault has been on the hunt for a new teammate for Nico Hulkenberg next year, and the French car manufacturer sensed a good opportunity to get one of Red Bull’s roster in exchange for letting Toro Rosso switch to Honda.
Although Red Bull has ultimately agreed to release Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz for 2018 – on the proviso that he could be brought back for the following year if he is needed – it has emerged he was not the only driver Renault targetted during talks.
Sources have revealed that at one stage, as discussions reached a crunch point for the engine changes to go ahead, Renault made a bid to get Ricciardo instead.
The Australian’s form against Max Verstappen has left him as one of the key players in the future driver market, especially with his contract at Red Bull coming to an end after next year.
But with Red Bull well aware of Ricciardo’s strengths and having no interest in letting him go, in the end Renault gave up its hunt for the Aussie and focused efforts on Sainz instead.
Red Bull gave its blessing for Sainz to move to Renault – although there has been no official confirmation of the news, nor a final decision on when the Spaniard will make the switch across to the Enstone-based team.
Renault has been pushing to get Sainz in the car as early as possible – potentially from the Malaysian Grand Prix – with his place at Toro Rosso then taken, at least in the short term, by Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly
But Renault’s current driver Jolyon Palmer is standing firm about the contract he has in place, and unless the team and British driver reach a compromise deal and agree to part ways, there is no way open for Sainz to be slotted in.
Palmer was in a defiant mood in Singapore on Thursday when asked about his future situation, and the prospect of losing his seat from Malayia.
“I have a contract. I’ve got seven more races this year,” he said. “There have been suggestions for the past 35 races that I might not be at the next one, or in the next few, so this is nothing new for me. It’s water off a duck’s back now.
“It’s the same, I think at probably most races this year it’s been the case and nothing has changed.”
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