Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has conclusively ruled out any move to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari in the near future after recent speculation that he could be switching to join his former team-mate Sebastian Vettel at the Scuderia.
Ricciardo has confirmed he is signed to Red Bull until the end of the 2018 season and that he will be racing for the team next year, confident that under the new regulations in 2017 they will be able to challenge at the front.
He had said earlier in the week: “I understand if they were to make a change I’m a driver on their list,” adding: “I’m aware they’d be interested, I don’t blame them.” Speaking before the Austrian Grand Prix, however, he was unequivocal about his intent. “I can confidently say that now I will [still be here in 2017],” he said.
“When I was asked in Canada I said the only reason I would look elsewhere would be to fight for a world title. It’s not appealing to jump ship for something that isn’t better, so, yeah, the red stuff’s hit the headlines, which I didn’t expect.
“I am with Red Bull for a couple of years beyond this one but even if I wasn’t I would only be interested if … Mercedes would be the only one who could say we’re definitely fighting for a world title. Obviously, at Red Bull we’re getting closer and that’s our aim next year but it’s the same with Ferrari or anyone else, there’s no guarantees.”
Raikkonen has yet to have his contract renewed for next year and the team are understood to be considering whether to extend it for a fourth consecutive season. Ricciardo had made it clear he was aware Ferrari were interested but had denied any direct negotiations.
A move would have brought him back alongside Vettel, with whom he drove at Red Bull in 2014, when Ricciardo secured three wins and outperformed his four-times world champion team-mate. Ricciardo is comfortably one of the brightest talents among the younger drivers on the grid and can be expected to have been a target for Ferrari. How the dynamic may have worked with Vettel, who has established himself as the number one in the team in pace over Raikkonen is questionable as he may not have enjoyed such an advantage over Ricciardo.
The Australian believed he would have relished rejoining the battle, however. “It’s like in a fighter’s record,” he said. “If they lose to someone, I think they always want to get that chance again, if they believe they can clear the record. I know Seb, I know he’s confident about himself, very driven, so if he could get a chance to clear his record I think he would accept it.”
Despite lacking pace to the field-leading Mercedes this year, he was confident the team would move forward under the next year’s new rules, toward challenging for the title. “Looking at what we’ve got, it looks like we should be another step closer,” he said. “Seeing what I see, if we’re able to win races this year then I see next year only being in one direction, whether it’s a fight for a title I think we should be very close.”
The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, also conformed that the Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz had his contract extended at the sister squad until 2017, which has further reduced the potential options for Ferrari to fill Raikkonen’s seat next year. Of the current grid only Williams’s Valtteri Bottas and possibly Force India’s Sergio Pérez may be considered as the No2 drivers at the Scuderia.
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