Christian Horner thought Daniel Ricciardo's move to Renault was a wind-up
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner thought Daniel Ricciardo was winding him up when the Australian told him of his decision to leave the squad for Renault.
Ricciardo was widely expected to sign on at Red Bull for another year but last week it was announced that he will instead join Nico Hulkenberg at Renault after penning a two-year deal, shocking many in the paddock.
The Briton believes Ricciardo wanted to change things up within his own career for his own personal reasons despite having stated he felt he offered the Australian everything had asked for during contract negotiations.
“I thought he was winding me up, to be honest with you,” Horner told the official F1 podcast.
“He rang me to say I’m going to Renault. I said ‘You what? Is this a wind-up for the summer holidays?’ But it then became very clear that was his choice and you have to respect that. Renault are a growing team, they’re committing resource there.
“I think Daniel decided after a long flight to America, he decided he wanted a change. You look at the rational reasons for that, it’s difficult to understand, but Daniel obviously had his reasons.
“I think it comes back to wanting to take on, in his words, a new challenge but I also feel he sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn’t want to play a support role I guess, for want of a better word, not that they are treated in any way differently.
“They would have equal status, as they have always had. I could understand if it was to Ferrari or Mercedes, but it’s an enormous risk at this stage of his career.
“It’s been a bit like trying to convince a girl to go out with you, but she’s being pretty reticent. We have bent over backwards to make it happen, but if someone’s heart isn’t really in it, then…
“We gave Daniel everything he wanted and asked for and it still wasn’t enough. We were even prepared to do a one-year agreement so he was available to Ferrari or Mercedes should they come knocking in 12 months’ time.
“It wasn’t about money or status, commitment or duration. I think he felt 'I need to take something else on in this stage of my career'. It might be an inspired choice, it might one that he regrets.”
The second Red Bull seat is set to be contested between Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jr., currently without a seat after effectively being replaced at Renault by Ricciardo.