Bombshell links Ricciardo to Ferrari
A bombshell report claims a path is opening up for Daniel Ricciardo to move to Formula 1 giant Ferrari at the end of the 2019 season.
Less than 12 months since his Red Bull contract saga at times overshadowed the 2018 season, Ricciardo is again in the thick of a stunning set of circumstances that could see him move to the Scuderia outfit as a replacement for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Ricciardo, who turned 30 this week, remains contracted with Renault until the end of the 2020 season - but Auto Auction's Dan Knutson has outlined how Ferrari could begin the 2020 season with a star driver pairing of Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc.
The report claims Ricciardo and Mercedes star Valtteri Bottas are on Ferrari's wish list should Vettel decide to retire at the end of the 2019 season.
"The bottom line is that Mercedes is very likely to retain Bottas, and Vettel is unlikely to retire at the end of this season," Auto Action reported.
"But Ferrari has initiated moves to make sure it is not suddenly left without two top drivers in 2020, and Ricciardo and Bottas are at the top of the wish list for the Prancing Horse team."
The German ace has ben under pressure during Ferrari's miserable start to 2019 where they have failed to win a race while rivals Mercedes have streaked away to a 135-point lead in the constructor's championship.
Vettel, who turned 32 this week, is also contracted with Ferrari through to the end of 2020 - but his recent comments and behaviour have reportedly forced Ferrari to begin thinking about needing to replace him sooner than first thought, should Vettel decide to walk away.
Ferrari's reported decision to identify Ricciardo and Bottas as dream replacement options for Vettel is just one of several big developments outlined in the report, including:
- Ricciardo has a clause in his Renault deal that would allow him to move to Ferrari or Mercedes in 2020
- The former Red Bull ace would be reluctant to leave Renault because he believes in the journey the team is on; and
- The situation could get even messier with Bottas expected to open contract talks with Mercedes soon and Max Verstappen also possibly being available if Red Bull fails to meet the contract clauses reportedly written into his contract that would allow him to leave if the team fails to reach certain goals.
The report also outlines Vettel is unlikely to retire at the end of 2019, but Ferrari is proactively chasing a replacement on the off-chance that he decides to give it away.
Vettel said in April after his miserable weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix that his "contract is just a piece of paper".
"I'm certain I really want to drive this year and next year, then I don't know what happens to the regulations," he told The Times in the UK.
"Nobody knows so far. I certainly can't sit here and say, 'No [I won't leave]' just for the sake of being in Formula 1."
It came after Vettel's confidant and former boss of Formula 1 Bernie Ecclestone predicted Vettel would be prepared to walk away to put his wife, Hanna, and his two young daughters ahead of his own career if he feels unloved at Ferrari.
"I love driving, I love the sensation of speed, and I love fighting these guys," Vettel said. "There are a lot of things I like at the moment and things I would miss, so that is why it is not an option to quit tomorrow.
"But the contract is just a piece of paper. We will see what happens."
Ricciardo said after his disappointing weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix where he and teammate Nico Rosberg both finished outside the points that he is remaining confident in the direction the team is heading in.
It came after he said there was something "fundamentally wrong" with his Renault Sport after struggling in qualifying.
"So I feel something still wasn't quite right on the car this weekend, what that is, we still don't know, but I'd like to believe we're going to find something because right now it doesn't add up," Ricciardo told Auto Sport.
"For now, I remain optimistic that I'll be like 'that was what was wrong', and then we'll be in Silverstone laughing.