Red Bull keen to keep Ricciardo beyond 2018

AUSTIN (Texas) • Red Bull team chief Christian Horner made clear on Saturday that he is determined to retain Australian Daniel Ricciardo alongside Max Verstappen beyond next year.

One day after the team confirmed that Verstappen, 20, had signed a new three-year deal to run until 2020, Horner stressed that Red Bull had no intention of giving Ricciardo a supporting role.

He also rejected suggestions that Ricciardo would gain from a switch to join Mercedes or Ferrari in a bid to win the World Championship.

The 28-year-old Australian said on Friday he was in no hurry to decide his future - his contract runs to the end of next year, as will Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas - but would relish a chance to race with Bottas' team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

"I've said for a long time (McLaren's double world champion Fernando) Alonso or Lewis would be the guys I'd love to see myself against," Ricciardo told ESPN on the sidelines of the US Grand Prix. "Alonso's getting towards the tail of his career so Lewis at the moment in his prime is more desirable for me to go up against."

Horner, however, said he was confident that Ricciardo will stay with Red Bull. "Time will tell," said Horner.

"Daniel is very happy within the team. If we can provide a competitive car, I've got every confidence that he will be here in the future.

"He would have the same issues with those teams (Ferrari and Mercedes) and I think Red Bull fits well with his personality.

"He sees he has very equal treatment (here) and that he's not performing a supporting role.

"The way we operate here is that we give both drivers absolute opportunity. Within the other teams, he would be performing very much a supporting role."

Horner added: "There's more than 12 months left on Daniel's contract so we've got a little bit of time, but at the right moment we'll sit down and talk about the future.

"The clear intent is to ensure that we keep Daniel in the car past the end of 2018.

"That's absolutely our goal - to retain both drivers. For me, it's the best driver line-up that we've had. I think it's probably the best driver line-up on the grid and we're obviously very keen to retain that."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Red Bull keen to keep Ricciardo beyond 2018'. Print Edition | Subscribe