F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -


En­gines are not the only un­cer­tainty at Red Bull for 2019. Their driver line-up is also up in the air, with Daniel Ric­cia­rdo out of con­tract and mak­ing no se­cret of the fact that he is open to of­fers.

There are po­ten­tial open­ings for Ric­cia­rdo at sev­eral teams and his Chinese GP win has done his stock no harm. Mercedes have two driv­ers out of con­tract at the end of 2018; Kimi Räikkö­nen’s Fer­rari deal ex­pires this year; Re­nault are in­ter­ested; and so might be Mclaren if Fer­nando Alonso were to call it a day.

Ric­cia­rdo has said he “wants to be with the best car”. But which one is it – and can he get it?

De­lays over Lewis Hamil­ton’s new Mercedes deal have set tongues wag­ging, de­spite the fact that both par­ties say it’s only a mat­ter of time. But Merc F1 boss Toto Wolff has made it clear Valt­teri Bot­tas needs to prove him­self in the first half of the sea­son to keep his seat, while Este­ban Ocon is an­other se­ri­ous pos­si­bil­ity there.

And would Wolff rather have an­other A-lis­ter in case ei­ther Hamil­ton doesn’t sign, or if he feels any con­cern that his su­per­star’s mo­ti­va­tion might wane?

Ric­cia­rdo might fancy Fer­rari on one level – it’s the fastest car so far this year – but do Fer­rari want to risk up­set­ting the in­tra-team har­mony by sign­ing a driver who beat Se­bas­tian Vet­tel at Red Bull in 2014, when the Ger­man is un­der con­tract until 2020?

Vet­tel is be­lieved to have num­ber-one sta­tus guar­an­teed in his con­tract, in which case, would Ric­cia­rdo want to go there? Or would he go for it on the ba­sis that he would ex­pect to beat Vet­tel and ques­tions of ‘team or­ders’ would there­fore take care of them­selves?

Red Bull say they want him to stay – but is Dan con­cerned about it be­com­ing Max Ver­stap­pen’s team?

Mean­while, both Mclaren and Re­nault would be a po­ten­tial step down in com­pet­i­tive­ness, but if Mercedes and Fer­rari are not an op­tion, do they be­come more ap­peal­ing if Red Bull plump for Honda en­gines? It’s a tough call, and clearly not just Ric­cia­rdo’s...


Bot­tas (right) is un­der pres­sure to pro­duce re­sults quickly with Ocon (far right) a pos­si­ble re­place­ment at Mercedes. But would Fer­rari go for Ric­cia­rdo given the maul­ing he gave Seb be­fore his Fer­rari move?

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