Daniel Ricciardo admits that he went without sleep on some nights while he decided what he would do for the 2019 season. The Australian was expected to stay with Red Bull for another two years, but in a shock move, he announced he would be joining Renault.
Ricciardo's current teammate Max Verstappen extended his deal with the energy drink team last year until the end of 2020. Next season, the team will ditch Renault's power units and will instead run with Honda.
Speaking ahead of the upcoming Belgian Grand Prix, Ricciardo declared that a desire for a fresh start at a new team was the biggest factor in his decision: "It was a long thought process for sure.
“I guess I’ve been kind of bombarded with the questions already obviously when Max announced his extension it turned a bit of the spotlight onto me. 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, 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.
“I guess there’s a lot of unknowns I guess with everything, the move where I’m going to be next year is still a certain element of risks and unknowns. Nothing was that clear cut. For sure Honda still need to really prove themselves at the front, but honestly there wasn’t really one key factor other than really myself and wanting to have a change of scenery I guess,
“It wasn’t necessarily the engine deal or financials or this or that, it was really me. Five years with Red Bull Racing, 10 years with the company, obviously it’s been amazing and great, 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.”
Next season will be Renault's fourth year back in Formula 1 since it re-joined the grid as a manufacturer in 2016. Ricciardo revealed that a move to the French outfit had played on his mind for some time, and says he penned the deal after testing with Red Bull in Budapest.
“It’s not something I knew for weeks or months," he said. "So yeah it was all pretty much when it got announced right before the break. “Renault was part of my considerations for a bit of time, they didn’t come out of nowhere on the last hour. I was really torn obviously with what to do and that process took time.
“At the end still on the race weekend in Budapest I wasn’t sure, I did the test on Tuesday, took some time to think about it over the course of the next 48 hours and came to my decision. It wasn’t easy, a lot of variables I had to weigh up, but in my mind the key thing for me personally was it was time to make a change.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing