Ricciardo dishes on shock Red Bull exit
DANIEL Ricciardo has opened up on his decision to quit Red Bull ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
The Aussie star, who comes off contract with the energy drink team at the end of the year, will join Renault in 2019 after making what he had previously called the "toughest decision" of his life.
In his first public appearance since making the call that sent shockwaves throughout the F1 world during the summer break, Ricciardo was grilled about his decision to turn his back on the team he has raced for since 2014.
"I never said I was unloved," he said. "It was more just the routine, going to the same factory year after year. I felt it made my enjoyment for the sport a bit numb at times.
"To be clear, there was no falling out, no bad blood with anyone in the team, the bosses or anyone."
Ricciardo blindsided the F1 community earlier this month by revealing he would be partnering Nico Hulkenberg at Renault in 2019 rather than staying at Red Bull to drive alongside Max Verstappen.
He said his relationship with Dutch tyro Verstappen had not played any part in his decision, claiming the pair had got on much better than media reports had suggested.
"I guess I got to a point where I felt I was ready for a change," he said. "I was ready for a new challenge and for me personally some fresh motivation. Honda still need to really prove themselves at the front, but there wasn't one key factor other than really myself and wanting to have a change of scenery.
"It wasn't necessarily the engine deal or finances.
"It was a long thought process for sure. I took my time with it, by no means an easy decision at all.
"I guess I got to a point where I felt I was ready for a change, that was the long and short of it, I was ready for a new challenge, for me personally some fresh motivation.
"That sounds easy saying it like that, but it wasn't easy. I had a few sleepless nights for sure trying to come up with the best conclusion for myself.
"Once I made that decision and pulled the trigger I felt comfortable with it and it feels right for next year … Five years with Red Bull Racing, 10 years with the company - obviously it's been amazing and great, I felt like now is that time to take on something new.
"So that was pretty much how it all ended, or how my decision came."
Most pundits - along with Red Bull boss Christian Horner - expected the 29-year-old to re-sign with the Milton Keynes-based outfit and Ricciardo himself had hinted he would stay put after acknowledging a move to Mercedes or Ferrari wasn't feasible.
Red Bull hasn't been able to compete with the two top sides, falling well behind in the constructors' championship in recent times, which has contributed to Ricciardo's choice to leave. The West Australian wants desperately to win a world title and he's in the prime of his career, so he felt a change was necessary to spark a reversal in fortunes.
His exit led to suggestions he was worried he'd be left behind by Red Bull if it favoured Verstappen, who is widely considered a world champion in waiting. Horner addressed Ricciardo's relationship with the young Dutchman in an hour-long episode of F1's official podcast Beyond The Grid this month.
"It's a great shame he's chosen to leave the team, but I guess in his mind he's felt that after five years he needs a new challenge," Horner said.
"He's chosen to join the Renault team he feels are in the ascendancy. He knows the Renault product very well from all the time he's spent with us. And I can't help but feel he wants to be a leading role perhaps in a smaller environment.
"The competition between he and Max is intense. Max is growing stronger and stronger and I think Daniel has decided the timing is right for him to check out and try something else …
"He said he wanted a change. You look at the rational reasons for that, it's hard to understand.
"I think it comes back to wanting to take on, in his words, a new challenge. But he sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn't want to play a support role … not that they're in any way treated any different.
"It wasn't about money, it wasn't about status, it wasn't about position or commitment or duration. He felt I need to take something else on at this stage of my career. It might be an inspired choice, it might be one he regrets."
Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko has accused Ricciardo of misleading the organisation about his future, saying he thought the driver was re-signing with the team after the Hungarian Grand Prix and calling it a "very strange situation".
"In Hungary, he told Mr. (Red Bull owner, Dietrich) Mateschitz and me that he was OK with everything and that he was going to sign during the test on Tuesday. But he didn't," Marko told Austrian TV station Servus.
"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."
Ricciardo is fifth in the drivers' standings behind the Mercedes and Ferrari pairings. He's won two races in China and Monaco but has failed to finish four of the 12 races so far.
He will be replaced in 2019 by Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who has been promoted from Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso.