According to Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, Ricciardo’s decision to leave the team and join Renault for the next season was very strange, as the Aussie driver was allegedly ready to sign his new contract before suddenly changing his mind.
Red Bull Racing claim that they had met all of Ricciardo’s demands, with negotiations being carried on throughout the Austrian Grand Prix weekend. Thus, something must have changed that caused one of the most talented drivers on the grid to shock his team with his decision to move to Renault.
“I don’t understand it. It was a very strange situation anyhow,” stated Marko while speaking to Austrian broadcaster Servus TV. “The negotiations were difficult but Wednesday before the Austrian Grand Prix we were talking for two hours and came to an agreement.”
“During the weekend, we were talking and renegotiating again. In Hungary, he told Mr [Dietrich] Mateschitz and me that he was OK with everything and that he was going to sign during the [post-Hungarian GP] test on Tuesday. But he didn’t.”
“On Thursday, he then called and told me he was going to Renault. I can only assume that maybe he doesn’t believe in the Honda project or that Renault offered him a lot of money.”
Nevertheless, Marko praised Ricciardo, reports Autosport, stating that his overtaking skills “are great” and that his moves “come out of nowhere and sometimes his opponents don’t even realize they are being overtaken.”
Ricciardo has already won two races this season with Red Bull, while Renault has yet to secure a podium spot. On the other hand, next year’s Red Bull – Honda partnership does have a lot of question marks hovering over it, especially since the Japanese engines underperformed at McLaren, so it’s very likely that it had something to do with his sudden change of heart.