WHERE WILL DAN BE THE MAN?
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...
“RICCIARDO MIGHT FANCY FERRARI BUT DO FERRARI WANT TO RISK UPSETTING THEIR INTRA-TEAM HARMONY?
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?