There’s always something refreshing about an unforeseen piece of Formula 1 news, especially one disseminated in the heat of a summer break, when no one is looking, let alone expecting. It pulls us out of a slumber, ignites our interest, and in the unanticipated case of Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault, leaves us with more questions than answers.
No single event, perk or proposition, from one side or the other, likely swayed the Aussie’s new career choice. Actually, it was most probably more a case of Red Bull losing Ricciardo rather than Renault winning him over.
So far, the seven-time Grand Prix winner’s 2018 season has been like a case of metal fatigue: repeated variations in stress followed by an accumulation of small cracks, all of which have eroded both the driver’s motivation and confidence in his team.
Ricciardo comfortably outraced and outscored team mate Max Verstappen in the early part of the year. The balance of power inverted however after the Honey Badger’s win at Monaco. But it changed through not fault of his own, induced rather by a string of mechanical failures.
There had also been the Baku run-in episode with Max, a calamitous coming together that most pundits ultimately pinned on Red Bull’s failure to keep their drivers’ impetuosity in check. In Austria, another sign emerged of the pair’s good relationship running thin when Ricciardo was displeased with Verstappen’s right not to give him a tow in qualifying.
When a driver expresses frustration over a team rule that’s been in force for the past thirty-some races, it’s a tell-tale sign that he is slowly but surely feeling left behind.
Looking at the successive cracks against the backdrop of his team’s decision to switch its power allegiance to Honda for 2019, Daniel Ricciardo sensed a clipping of his Red Bull wings. Renault’s interest showed up at the right place at the right time. Negotiations ensued, financial demands were eventually accepted, a contract was duly signed.
As for the many questions the shock move has brought forth, they’re mostly centred around the identity of Ricciardo’s successor at Red Bull, and how the dominoes will fall elsewhere in the drivers’ market now that’s it’s been turned on its head.
We’ll immediately discard a name promoted by F1’s most optimistic dreamers, Fernando Alonso, given the Spaniard’s incessant torching of Honda last season. It’ll either be Carlos Sainz or Pierre Gasly that heads to Milton Keynes.
Regarding the former, the always astute Martin Brundle delivered, via Twitter, a candid and blunt view on the Spaniard’s state of affairs.
“If Carlos Sainz doesn’t get a strong drive in F1 next year it will be a travesty, annoy me intensely, and reflect badly on F1,” Brundle said.
We couldn’t agree more…
Phillip van Osten