Daniel Ricciardo was caught by surprise when he heard of teammate Max Verstappen’s unexpected early contract extension with Red Bull Racing.
Verstappen has had a tough year on the tracks this year and had constantly expressed his frustrations with the engine unreliability and even hinted at moving out in the middle of his contract term.
But all that came to an end when the team announced that the Dutchman has agreed to a one-year extension to his contract, which means he will be with the team until the end of 2020.
Ricciardo, whose five-year term ends by 2018, admitted he was surprised that Verstappen signed a deal so early since he still has two more years on his current agreement.
“I know obviously that Max is happy in the team, so I’m not surprised that he wants to stay with the team,” Ricciardo commented.
“I guess the announcement was quite early. I think the timing was the only real surprise.”
Verstappen’s decision to stay with Red Bull is “Positive” and shows that the Dutch driver and his management continues to believe in the team’s future, says Ricciardo.
“For Max, the positive is he and I guess his team, his management and his dad [Jos], feel confident with Red Bull, so it’s positive for us for next year and it gives the team confidence.
“A bit surprised it came this early, but otherwise not surprised his decision is to stay because I know he’s happy with the team.”
The Dutch driver’s latest move has no bearing on his own plans, insists Ricciardo. While reiterating he still has another year with the team, the Aussie insisted his decision will not come in so early, adding: “Definitely still here for the end of next year. I could possibly be here longer than that, but I don’t think it’s going to be something which is going to be announced as soon as Max.
“But for no real reason, the only reason, in particular, I think there’s still enough time on our side. I don’t think it needs to be a quick decision at the moment.”
Explaining why he committed for a long term with Red Bull, Verstappen said he believes the Austrian team “can build the best car on the grid”.
” [The previous deal] was anyway running until ’19, but I had a good feeling with the team – of course, it has been a challenging year for us, but we definitely improved a lot, especially towards the end of the season,” Verstappen said.
“I think we’ve built a great car, and I trust the guys, I believe in the guys, they believe in me.
“I think our working relationship is also really good, so I guess that’s [what] made me decide to extend.”
Red Bull’s contract with Renault for engines will end after 2018. The French manufacturer has already sent signals that they are not keen on renewing the deal, making Honda the only available choice.
The Japanese engine maker has been struggling since last two years to fix their engine’s performance and reliability issues. But Honda believes they have had a breakthrough since introducing spec 3.7.
When we asked Verstappen how he thinks the team will do with the engine situation, he said: “I believe in the team, so we’ll see what happens.”