Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave Red Bull and join Renault came as a bit of a shock to the F1 fraternity, as all through the season it had seemed that Ricciardo was all but set to pen a new deal with Red Bull.
While money and Renault’s ascendancy could be a factor, Horner believes that playing second fiddle to Verstappen was probably the biggest fear for Ricciardo, and he believed that the timing was right to make the switch to a team with a ‘smaller environment’.
“I guess in his mind he’s felt that after five years he feels he needs a new challenge, a new prospectus,” Horner said.
“I think that obviously he’s chosen to join the Renault team, that he feels they’re in the ascendancy. He knows the Renault product very well from all the time that he’s spent with us.
“And I can’t help but feel that he wants to be [in] a leading role perhaps in a smaller environment. The competition between he and Max is very intense. Max is growing stronger and stronger. And I think Daniel’s just decided that the timing is right for him to check out and try something else.” he added.
Horner clarified that the duo had and will continue to have equal status in the team.
However, it was probably because of Max’s form and his increasing strength and speed on the circuit that probably hinted that he could be no.1 at Red Bull in the following years, leading Ricciardo to make the decision to switch teams.
“He sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn’t want to play a support role, I guess, for want of better words,” said Horner.
“Not that they’re in any way treated in any way different.
“I can’t but feel that was perhaps a large part of Daniel’s decision-making,” Horner added. “I could understand if it was to Ferrari or Mercedes. But it’s an enormous risk at his stage in his career.” he added.