Daniel Ricciardo made the toughest decision of his career.
Daniel Ricciardo made the toughest decision of his career.

Ricciardo rejected Red Bull’s ‘unfair joke’

MORE revealing insights into Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull departure have emerged as the true extent to which he struggled with the agonising decision becomes clearer.

The Aussie F1 star faced the press yesterday for the first time since dropping the bombshell he would be joining Renault in 2019, telling reporters he was "ready for a new challenge".

"I never said I was unloved. It was more just the routine, going to the same factory year after year. I felt it made my enjoyment for the sport a bit numb at times," Ricciardo said.

Nearly everyone in the F1 world expected Ricciardo to re-sign with Red Bull, who he has raced with since 2014. He hinted multiple times he was going to recommit with the energy drink team but during the summer break took everyone by surprise when he announced his future was taking a twist.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner was completely blindsided, saying he thought it was a joke. At practice for this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, Horner said he was expecting Ricciardo to remain because the 29-year-old had gone as far as to record a video message with Red Bull to announce he was staying put, but a last-minute change of heart meant the paperwork was never signed.

"By the time we got to the Austrian Grand Prix, the whole lot looked pretty much there," Horner told Sky Sports in Belgium. "There was an agreement in principle. It was about sorting out the paperwork. Over Hockenheim and Hungary that happened.

"I thought it was a joke for the summer holiday. I was expecting the paperwork to be signed.

"He'd even recorded the message announcing his renewal.

"But the third time he told me I realised it was for real and you just have to wish him well."

Read: Ricciardo dishes on ditching Red Bull

Read: Verstappen kicks Ricciardo out the door

Horner was shocked by Ricciardo’s switch.
Horner was shocked by Ricciardo’s switch.

Ricciardo has come under fire from Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko, who accused the West Australian of misleading Red Bull over his contract decision. While Ricciardo didn't directly address those claims, he admitted he did have one regret when it came to telling his bosses he was going to leave.

"I was in the States. If I'm really honest it would have been something I would have liked to do in person and face-to-face," Ricciardo said in Belgium. "Let's say, a bit more like an adult, a man about it.

"But it was the best I could do so I called Christian (Horner). I didn't want to get into too much small talk, I just wanted to try and get it done.

"It was obviously a bit of a shock and surprise to him but we talked it out over a few minutes and by the end he was understanding and respected my decision.

"It all ended very amicably and basically they're sorry to see me go and appreciate what I've done and given to the team."

RICCIARDO'S CANDID CONFESSION

There will be no more shoeys in Red Bull colours next year.
There will be no more shoeys in Red Bull colours next year.

It wasn't just quitting Red Bull that gave Ricciardo sleepless nights - the entire sport was taking its toll.

He said he's felt "exhausted" at times this season and could relate to 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, who shocked everyone by retiring after winning the title.

"There's been times this year that I've felt exhausted, maybe a bit jaded, and for the first time in my career, not completely enjoying F1," Ricciardo told Fairfax Media.

"There's been times when I've thought, 'This is why Rosberg retired,' and he had it a lot more intense than me. Or why Casey Stoner retired from MotoGP very young.

"I can see how you could feel burnt out or a bit over it."

Ricciardo said there were "several options" he could have pursued. He had talks with McLaren but Renault's honesty won him over.

The French outfit was upfront with him from the beginning, telling him the team was not going to be as quick as Red Bull in 2019. Ricciardo has been strong in saying his only goal is to win a world title, and he's in the prime of his career now, so you'd think an admission of inferiority would turn him off making the switch.

But the more he thought about it and the more Renault explained its plans for 2020 and beyond, the more excited Ricciardo became about jolting himself out of a rut and he had "the balls" to take a punt.

"They have a winning mentality and a realistic way of going about it, which I liked," Ricciardo said.

RENAULT: RICCIARDO DIDN'T BUY RED BULL 'JOKE'

Red Bull just isn’t as quick as the top dogs.
Red Bull just isn’t as quick as the top dogs.

One of Red Bull's biggest failings in recent times, and the main reason it's been unable to compete with Ferrari and Mercedes for a constructors' championship, has been its lack of engine power.

Its power units, supplied by Renault, aren't on the same level with what the Silver Arrows and Scuderia have in their cars and it's cost Ricciardo and teammate Max Verstappen race wins.

It's why Horner and Co. made the decision to ditch Renault and partner with new engine provider Honda in 2019 - a move they would have been hoping was enough to convince Ricciardo to stay. Honda already powers Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso but for all the optimism within the Red Bull garage about the change-up - Marko said "nobody can keep up" with Honda - Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul said Ricciardo wasn't buying into the "unimpressive" hype.

"What I appreciate is the fact that Daniel has his position, he has his agenda, he has his situation, which I don't want to comment on," Abiteboul told Motorsport.com. "But I don't think he was impressed by Red Bull's communications strategy, vis a vis Renault, vis a vis Honda, and how perfect Honda is.

"I think it's a bit unfair to Renault. I think Honda is progressing, but all the communication of Toro Rosso regarding Honda, when Honda has already introduced 11 or 12 power units.

"Frankly it's a joke, and unimpressive. That they can influence a guy like (Riciardo's replacement at Red Bull in 2019) Pierre Gasly I can understand, and not a driver like Daniel Ricciardo, and that I respect."

Without divulging the intimate details of their negotiations, Abiteboul said Renault convinced Ricciardo to come across even though it wasn't the highest bidder.

"Renault can afford pretty much anything," Abiteboul said. "Renault is the largest car maker involved in Formula 1, full stop. So we can afford anything as long as it makes sense.

"Then it's just a question of value for money and whether it makes sense to spend that given where we are in the development of our team. Second, I don't think we were the highest bidder in obtaining Daniel, without going into details.

"He bought into the project not necessarily because of the money. I don't think it would be great to put this sort of light on Daniel."



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