Renault confirms Ricciardo and Hulkenberg for 2019 F1 season

Renault has confirmed that it has signed Daniel Ricciardo for the 2019 and 2020 Formula 1 seasons.

In a major coup the Australian will partner incumbent Nico Hulkenberg as the manufacturer continues its long-term ambition to fight for championships.

Renault returned to F1 as a works team in 2016 and improved from ninth to sixth last year, and currently holds fourth position as the lead midfield team.

It has previously outlined its desire to be in a position to battle for victories and the title from 2020.

Ricciardo had been expected to sign on at Red Bull and hinted in Hungary that a deal was close, ostensibly bringing the protracted saga to a close.

But on Friday Red Bull announced Ricciardo’s departure at the end of the season and shortly after Renault confirmed that it has agreed a two-year deal with the seven-time race winner.

Ricciardo stepped up to Red Bull’s senior team in 2014 following previous stints with the now defunct HRT and the sister Toro Rosso outfit.

Ricciardo hinted earlier in the year that a move to McLaren or Renault had “some appeal” and was receptive to the notion of looking longer-term to achieve his title ambitions, citing Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes for 2013, prior to the overhaul of the pecking order under new hybrid regulations.

“Daniel’s signing underscores our determination to accelerate our progress towards the forefront of the sport,” said team boss Cyril Abiteboul.

“It is also a recognition of the work accomplished over the past two and a half seasons.

“Daniel’s undoubted talent and charisma are a huge bonus and statement for the team.

“We will have to repay his faith in us by delivering the best car possible. We welcome him to our growing team in 2019 with a great deal of pride, but also humility.”

Ricciardo’s shock departure from Red Bull has shaken-up the driver market elsewhere, with Red Bull now in need of a replacement, ostensibly either Carlos Sainz Jr. or Pierre Gasly, for when it takes up a supply of Honda power units.

Should Sainz Jr. graduate to Red Bull it could safeguard Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren future, with the Spaniard having been touted as a replacement.

Esteban Ocon had been earmarked for a Renault drive but he will now have to stay put with Force India, which last week entered administration.