The world of Formula 1 was left in a state of bewilderment when Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian racing sensation, decided to part ways with his long-time team, Red Bull Racing, and embark on a new chapter with Renault. It was a move that raised eyebrows and ignited discussions throughout the paddock, especially considering the extensive efforts made by Red Bull to keep their star driver on board. Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull Racing, recently shared the intriguing story of how they attempted to retain Ricciardo’s services, shedding light on the dramatic behind-the-scenes negotiations.
Red Bull’s Generous Proposal
Red Bull Racing was willing to go to great lengths to secure Daniel Ricciardo’s future with the team. In an attempt to prevent his potential departure, they put forth an enticing offer that would have made him one of the highest-paid drivers in Formula 1. The proposal on the table was nothing short of remarkable:
“So we gave Max a contract at the beginning of that year in 2018 to secure his future.
“Daniel, I remember being upset at the time. He suddenly felt that ‘hang on, I don’t want to be the support act here.’ And I could tell he was starting to think of being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. He got a lot of noise in his ear and that this is the money that is also on the table [from other teams].
“But I remember I spoke to to our owner Dietrich Mateschitz before the Austrian Grand Prix, and I said ‘it’s looking a bit marginal with Daniel, can you just show him some love? Because you know, Helmut [Marko], obviously very pro Max. But I think if you could just balance things out, just let him know that you want him.’
“‘No problem. I’ll speak to him.’ So he took him upstairs after the race in Austria and they were gone for well over an hour and then they re-emerged, they reappeared both with smiles on their faces.
“Dietrich comes up to me, I said ‘well, how did it go?’ And he said ‘no problem. It’s not even a question.’
“I said: ‘Well, what did you agree with him?’ He said: ‘I said, we’ll give him whatever Max is on.’
“I was like, ‘Wow, do you know what we pay Max?’ And so I gave him the number and he said ‘who the f**k agreed to that?’ And I said ‘Well, you?’”
A Sudden Change of Heart
Despite the substantial financial package presented by Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo found himself at a crossroads in his career. He grappled with feelings of being overshadowed by his immensely talented teammate, Max Verstappen. The prospect of playing second fiddle in the team, despite his undeniable skill, prompted him to seriously consider the enticing offer from Red Bull. However, a twist of fate occurred during testing when a dramatic engine failure from Renault raised doubts about the French manufacturer’s capabilities.
Ricciardo was not immune to the uncertainties surrounding Renault’s performance, but he also saw an opportunity. The allure of becoming a leading figure at Renault, with the potential to shape the team’s future, proved to be a compelling factor in his decision-making process.
The Aftermath of the Decision
Christian Horner, in a candid revelation, disclosed that Daniel Ricciardo later expressed regret about his choice to move to Renault. It was during the challenging times of the pandemic year that Ricciardo admitted he had been wrongly advised at the time of his departure. The hindsight realization of leaving a competitive Red Bull Racing team to join a developing Renault squad weighed heavily on his mind.
In summary, Daniel Ricciardo’s departure from Red Bull Racing was a decision that shook the Formula 1 community. Red Bull’s generous offer to match Max Verstappen’s contract highlighted their commitment to keeping the Australian driver, but Ricciardo ultimately chose a new path with Renault. The rollercoaster of negotiations, engine failures, and moments of doubt ultimately led to a surprising career move—one that would later be tinged with regret.
“Christian, I hate to say this but you were absolutely right. And I apologise and all that and so on.”