Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that Daniel Ricciardo feared slipping into a number two role behind Max Verstappen at the energy drink team. Last week, Ricciardo unexpectedly announced that he would be leaving the Austrian squad after five years.
Ricciardo has partnered Max Verstappen at the team since 2016, involved in a closely fought battle between the pair. But now the 29-year-old is off to join Renault in search of a new challenge. And Horner thinks that the Australian was afraid of falling into a number two driver role.
"I guess in his mind he’s felt that after five years he feels he needs a new challenge, a new prospectus. I think that obviously he’s chosen to join the Renault team, that he feels they’re in the ascendancy. He knows the Renault product very well from all the time that he’s spent with us.
"And I can’t help but feel that he wants to be [in] 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’s just decided that the timing is right for him to check out and try something else.”
However Horner stated that they would have had equal status at the team: "He sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn’t want to play a support role, I guess, for want of better words. Not that they’re in any way treated in any way different.
He continued: "They would have had equal status as they have always had but I can’t but feel that was perhaps a large part of Daniel’s decision-making. I could understand if it was to Ferrari or Mercedes. But it’s an enormous risk at his stage in his career.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing