Christian Horner has broken his silence on Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave Red Bull, taking a few digs at the Aussie driver.
Ricciardo shocked the F1 world last week when he announced he would be driving for Renault in 2019, despite the expectation he would re-sign with Red Bull.
Team boss Horner has since addressed Ricciardo’s bombshell, saying he initially thought the 29-year-old was joking.
“I thought he was winding me up to be honest with you,” Horner told the Formula 1 podcast on Thursday.
“He rang me to say I’m going to Renault. I said ‘You what? Is this a wind-up for the summer holidays?’ But it then became very clear that was his choice and you have to respect that.”
However Horner was left rather perplexed by Ricciardo’s new team of choice, given the problems Red Bull have experienced with Renault engines this season.
“Renault are a growing team, they’re committing resources there,” said Horner.
“I think Daniel decided after a long flight to America, he decided he wanted a change.
“You look at the rational reasons for that, it’s difficult to understand, but Daniel obviously had his reasons.”
The Red Bull boss said he actually offered Ricciardo a one-year deal in case he was waiting for a spot at Mercedes or Ferrari to open up in 2020.
However Horner reckons Ricciardo felt intimidated by Max Verstappen, and was worried about playing second fiddle to his young counterpart in the future.
“I think it comes back to wanting to take on, in his words, a new challenge but I also feel 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 a better word, not that they are treated in any way differently.
“They would have equal status, as they have always had. I could understand if it was to Ferrari or Mercedes, but it’s an enormous risk at this stage of his career.
“It’s been a bit like trying to convince a girl to go out with you, but she’s being pretty reticent. We have bent over backwards to make it happen, but if someone’s heart isn’t really in it, then…
“We gave Daniel everything he wanted and asked for and it still wasn’t enough. We were even prepared to do a one-year agreement so he was available to Ferrari or Mercedes should they come knocking in 12 months’ time.
“It wasn’t about money or status, commitment or duration. I think he felt ‘I need to take something else on in this stage of my career’. It might be an inspired choice, it might one that he regrets.”