Carlos Sainz is Red Bull’s ‘safety net’ in case the team cannot keep Daniel Ricciardo after his contract ends, says Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
Ricciardo will enter the final season of his 5 year contract and for the first time in his F1 career, he will have a free hand to decide on where he will go next. While his teammate Max Verstappen has signed for an extra one year deal, extending his stay until 2020, the Australian is in no hurry to do something similar.
Mercedes and Ferrari both have their eyes on the Aussie and will have a seat opening up for 2019 season.
To hedge his bets, Horner allowed Sainz to be ‘ loaned out’ to Renault for a year instead of trading him as he had originally planned.
“That’s why we kept Carlos Sainz on loan, that’s why we have options around us,” Horner told Reuters.
“We have a safety net but our number one objective is to retain the pairing that we have.
“The next move he [Ricciardo] makes at 28 years of age is a very important one for him. So, of course, I’m sure he’s going to take the time to make sure the decision is right for him.
“But he knows the intent very clearly, and I’ve discussed it with him, is that we want him in the team. If that takes another six months, then so be it.”
Ricciardo had a good run this season until the last two races. In Austin and Mexico City he had two back-to-back DNFs. The Aussie has not been shy in his demand that his number one need to sign the next deal would be to have a competitive car. Red Bull is trying their best to convince him they can give one.
He added: “I think he’s keen to see what engine performance looks like next year, which is understandable.”
Red Bull’s contract with Renault ends by the end of 2018 season and there is uncertainty as to who would power the next Red Bull car. That uncertainty, plus the promise of a really fast car might push the Australian to go with either of the big two next year.