Horner has revealed that Ricciardo, who has openly noted his intent to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull, informed him of his regret to leave for pastures new four years ago.
“Daniel is a great guy, who was very badly advised earlier in his career,” Horner stated on the Eff Won podcast recently.
“Everybody f***s up at some point and I think he recognised that he made a mistake, he had not good advice around him at the point he left us and he could see that Max was growing, and probably didn’t realise just how good he was going to be.”
He added: “It was obvious at that stage that Max was coming and you could just see the raw talent, it just needed polishing a bit. So we gave Max a contract at the beginning of 2018 to secure his future.
“And Daniel I remember being upset at the time. He suddenly felt that he didn’t want to be the support act here, and I could tell he was starting to think about being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. He got a lot of noise in his ear about money on the table.
“I spoke to our owner Dietrich Mateschitz before the Austrian Grand Prix and I said: ‘Look, it’s a bit marginal with Daniel [regarding him signing a new contract], can you just show him some love, because Helmut [Marko, Red Bull advisor] is obviously very pro-Max? Just balance things out and let him know that you want him?’
“So he took Daniel upstairs after the race in Austria, and they were gone for well over an hour and then they reappear both with smiles on their faces.”
Horner disclosed that Mateschitz had pledged to present Ricciardo with the exact same terms that Verstappen had signed.
“I said, ‘What did you agree with him?’ and he said ‘We’ll just 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*** agreed to that’ and I said, ‘Well, you did.’
“He said: ‘Oh that’s a lot of money, but he’s a great guy, so let’s do it, give him the same deal that Max has.’
“So his [Daniel’s] agent is obviously jumping through hoops at the time, and that was for a two-year deal.”
Horner also leaked that Red Bull had even been prepared to offer Ricciardo only a one-year extension amid concerns over its imminent switch to Honda engines for 2019.
“We went to Hungary, we got all the paperwork sorted out. Then his manager came to me and said, ‘Daniel’s really nervous about the engine situation, we’ll do one year.’
“I spoke to Dietrich, he said ‘Look, it’s about relationships, it’s not about contracts. If he wants a year, give him a year.'”
However, the now eight-time F1 race winner decided to accept Renault’s proposal, which Horner concedes he initially didn’t take seriously when the news was delivered.
“He rings me, and he’s like, ‘I’ve just got off the plane. I’ve been thinking on the flight on the way here. I’m not going to sign the contract. I’m going to take another contract.’
“I was like ‘Wow, okay, have Mercedes or Ferrari come through with something?’ And he went, ‘No, I’m going to sign for Renault.’
“Because Daniel’s got a sense of humour, I was convinced he’s taking the p**s here. ‘You’re not going to Renault, stop f*****g about, just tell me when you are going to sign that contract.
“So after about 10 minutes, he finally persuaded me that he was gonna go to Renault, and it was disappointing.”