Daniel Ricciardo was hot property during the silly season in 2018, as the Aussie commanded respect from F1 teams all around and had results to back him up in the early part of the season.
However, with both Ferrari and Mercedes having almost figured out their line up for the 2019 season, Ricciardo couldn’t really muster a move to the top 2 F1 teams.
Staying put with Red Bull seemed the most viable option, but the growing fondness for Max Verstappen meant that Ricciardo needed to find shelter elsewhere.
Renault came through as the best possible suitor and Daniel Ricciardo decided it was time to take that leap of faith and sign for a midfield challenger.
— Autosport (@autosport) March 12, 2019
For some time during that silly season, reports suggested that Ricciardo was in contact with Mercedes to replace Valtteri Bottas.
While Bottas was doing a decent enough job for the Silver Arrows, he wasn’t essentially setting the race track on fire with his performances.
In a recent interview with the Herald Sun, Toto Wolff confirmed that Mercedes had eyes for Ricciardo, but did not want to flirt with another woman.
“We always had an eye on Daniel … we really like him in here,” Wolff said.
“It’s just the mentality in Mercedes — I sometimes feel if you’re happy in your relationship it is not always easy (to change). It is like being married, you need to be 100 per cent behind it.
“It was not a lack of interest, it was just that we were in a happy relationship and there was no need to flirt with another woman at that stage.” he added.
Wolff confirmed that with Bottas performing well until the summer break, there was no reason for Mercedes to look elsewhere.
The statement also comes as a warning to Bottas, who has already been constantly reminded about performing or perishing.
“The way we would want to operate is we first take the decisions if we are happy with our current drivers and if we are not we will entertain a discussion with another driver.” he said.
“If it’s 100 per cent clear that if in May or June we wouldn’t have been happy with Valtteri, we would have followed up in discussing with Daniel, but because at that stage of the season Valtteri was performing exceptionally well we did not want to waste Daniel’s time actually.” he added.
Wolff commented on Ricciardo’s move to Renault and how it made sense under the circumstances that he was under.
“It was a difficult situation for him in Red Bull where it looked like a lot has been put behind Max (Verstappen) who deserves support because he is a potential future world champion,’’ Wolff said.
“His move to Renault was about emancipating from the team and the brand that has been behind him for a long time and become his own person.
“Renault is an upcoming team, a works team, works structure and all the resources that is needed behind him and I think, having positioned himself at Renault for two years, the future is open to him if it is at Renault or anywhere else in the future.” he concluded.
Daniel Ricciardo would begin his Renault career at home and would be hoping that his home crowd can somehow urge him onto a podium finish, one that he just missed out on in 2018.