Daniel Ricciardo has not denied that McLaren has offered a whopping $20 million a year for him to switch to the beleaguered British team.
"Daniel is the king of the market," Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko told Sport Bild. "McLaren offers him more every week." Canadian Grand Prix, all tips, odds plus a bonus!
It is just another sign that McLaren is acknowledging that it may lose Fernando Alonso. "If he leaves, they probably want an experienced driver to replace him," Ricciardo said at Paul Ricard. As for the reported $20 million, the Australian joked: "It's not enough! I'll be honest: everyone is talking about Mercedes and Ferrari but I'm aware there will be interest from other teams."
Marko is right that Ricciardo is the key to the market. If he stays at Red Bull, that influences what will happen with the likes of the Red Bull-contracted Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly.
"Everyone is making speculation at the moment," the latter, who drives for Toro Rosso, said in France.
Spaniard Sainz, meanwhile, is watching the situation closely -- not just Ricciardo's next move, but the fact that Red Bull has ended its association with Renault. "I think my future depends more on Red Bull than Ricciardo. Let's see how events develop," said the current Renault driver.
Whatever happens, it seems clear that the situation will now move quite quickly. Strongly rumoured at Paul Ricard is that Ferrari has already told Kimi Raikkonen that they will replace him for 2019.
Like Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc - a cheaper option for Ferrari and a better 'number 2' for Sebastian Vettel - is another candidate. "I'd like to wrap it up before the summer break so that I'm not constantly answering the phone," said Ricciardo.
And for now, he's not ruling out McLaren. "I like what Lewis did with Mercedes," said Ricciardo. "Lewis said he knew that Mercedes would develop like that."
Another potential candidate for Ricciardo is Renault. "They're not ready yet," he said. "But maybe in three or four years. That's why I have to think it over carefully. But I would like the role of team leader."
Ricciardo said he wants a two-year deal for 2019 and 2020.
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