Horner: Red Bull give Ricciardo a happy environment
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has questioned whether Daniel Ricciardo would be happier at its rival Formula 1 title-contending teams after seeing the Australian driver storm to victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.
After a race strategy masterstroke to double stack both Red Bull cars to pit for fresh tyres under the safety car, Ricciardo roared through the front-running order to claim a dramatic victory at the Shanghai International Circuit to kick-start his F1 world title challenge.
Ricciardo’s existing Red Bull contract expires at the end of the current F1 season and the Australian driver has made it clear he will only agree to any new deal if he’s confident the Milton Keynes-based squad can produce a title-contending package.
With Ricciardo rumoured to links with both Mercedes and Ferrari for 2019, Horner has moved to quash any reports by underlining how Ricciardo benefitted from Red Bull’s team strategy calls in China.
Horner made reference to his confusion behind Ferrari’s strategy with Kimi Raikkonen where it appeared the Italian manufacturer looked to sacrifice the Finn’s position in order to back Valtteri Bottas into teammate Sebastian Vettel after Mercedes pulled off the undercut after the pit stop.
“If you look at Kimi’s race, I didn’t understand that strategy. I think Daniel’s happy in the environment. If we can give him a car like we did today, why would he want to be anywhere else?” Horner said. “It [the win] was great for him.
“He had the energy store failure in Bahrain, he had a turbo failure here yesterday, losing him important track time. You get to a point where you think what next but it’s a great confidence booster for him, to get this result now in this point in the year.”
Horner feels Ricciardo is currently producing the best F1 form of his career thanks to his experience at Red Bull.
“He’s absolutely at the top of his game and I think he has been for the last couple of years,” he said. “He’s hit that balance of experience and pace.
“He’s one of the best overtakers in the business and his judgement is impeccable in terms of judging a gap, getting the car stopped and getting it rotated.”
Ricciardo has spent his entire F1 career as a Red Bull-backed driver having secured support from the team’s junior programme back in 2008 catching the eye of talent scouts on his way to the Formula Renault 2.0 WEC title that year.
After a brief F1 rookie stint at HRT, Ricciardo stepped up to a Toro Rosso race seat in 2012 before graduating to Red Bull in 2014.
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