Daniel Ricciardo has described his decision to move from Red Bull to Renault for the 2019 Formula 1 season as “one of the most difficult” of his career.
Two separate announcements on Friday afternoon first confirmed that Ricciardo would be leaving Red Bull before the news was delivered that the six-time grand prix winner would join Renault.
Ricciardo debuted at Red Bull in 2014, having risen through the junior ranks with the team’s young driver programme and spent the two years previous at Toro Rosso. All seven of Ricciardo’s race wins have come at Red Bull, with Chinese and Monaco Grand Prix wins earlier this year the latest in this tally.
Previously described as “the most important” contract of his career, 29-year-old Ricciardo has added that his eventual decision to move to Renault was one of the toughest to make.
“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far,” he said. “But I thought that it was time for me to take on a fresh and new challenge.
“I realise that there is a lot ahead in order to allow Renault to reach their target of competing at the highest level but I have been impressed by their progression in only two years, and I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won.
“I hope to be able to help them in this journey and contribute on and off track.”
Renault only re-joined F1 as a manufacturer team in 2016, after having bought the financially crippled Lotus squad.
After scoring just eight points in its first season back, Renault’s improvement has been significant. The team ended 2017 sixth in the standings with 57 points.
Further improvements in 2018 mean that Renault currently sits in fourth place on 82 points. With aspirations to return to the championship-winning form of 2005 and ’06, Renault’s president Jerome Stoll highlighted that in signing Ricciardo the team has reinforced its objective.
“Renault decided to come back to Formula 1 to fight for World Championships,” Stoll said. “Signing Daniel Ricciardo is a unique opportunity for the Groupe Renault towards this objective that could not be missed.”
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul underlined Stoll’s comments; “Daniel’s signing underscores our determination to accelerate our progress towards the forefront of the sport.
“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 will partner Nico Hulkenberg at the team next season, meaning that Carlos Sainz Jr – who was on loan to Renault from Red Bull this season – will have to find a drive elsewhere.
Sainz has been rumoured for a potential move to McLaren, while a promotion to Red Bull remains a possibility.