Daniel Ricciardo’s surprising Formula One team-switch could very well have been fuelled by his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.
The Aussie driver shocked F1 fans when he spectacularly quit Red Bull for Renault after a decade of service with the team.
Following plenty of speculation around the move, reports have now surfaced surrounding Red Bull’s supposed favouritism of Verstappen over Ricciardo.
The young Dutch driver’s big-money contract extension sent a clear message to Ricciardo and his position in the pecking order.
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Verstappen is contracted until the end of 2020 with Red Bull, and seemingly the team has backed him to be their number one driver.
Formula One journalist James Allen believes this show of faith in Verstappen ultimately led to Ricciardo’s departure.
“The gesture towards his teammate gave Ricciardo a pretty clear feeling about where he stood in the thinking of Helmut Marko and the Red Bull management,” Allen wrote.
“He’s liked and respected as much for his consistency and his joyful personality as for his speed.
“Ricciardo is one of the fastest drivers in F1, but Red Bull clearly felt that Verstappen has that extra half a tenth of pace as well as combativity that make him the driver to bet the farm on.
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“They wanted to retain Ricciardo, but the premise and the terms were clearly not what Ricciardo wants.”
Whilst Ricciardo has had a long and successful career with the team, the Australian has set sights on becoming world champion – a feat that would be difficult as the supporting driver.
The 29-year-old was with the Britain-based team since 2014, winning seven races and he has been linked with a move to Renault – and prior to that, he was a Red Bull young driver from 2008.
Red Bull Racing Team principal Christian Horner said: “We fully respect Daniel’s decision to leave Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and we wish him all the best in his future.”
“We would like to thank him for his dedication and the role he has played since joining the team in 2014, the highlights of course being the seven wins and the 29 podiums he has achieved so far with us.”