Ricciardo hints at possible Mercedes move in 2019

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
© XPB 

Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo has prompted speculation that he's eyeing a possible move to Mercedes in 2019.

He told ESPN this weekend that he would love to be team mates with Lewis Hamilton in the future. Another ambition for the Australian would be to partner Fernando Alonso.

“I’ve said for a long time, Alonso or Lewis would be the guys I’d love to see myself against," Ricciardo said this weekend.

”Alonso’s getting towards the tail of his career, so Lewis at the moment is more desirable for me to go up against. I would like that."

On the other hand, a move to Ferrari appears less likely while Sebastian Vettel remains in residence at Maranello.

“Obviously I had the chance with Seb," he said, referring to their season together at Red Bull in 2014.

"I’ve had it with Max, and I‘m going to have it again with Max for at least one more year," he continued. "But while Lewis is in his prime I would like to challenge and see.”

Ricciardo was speaking at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas ahead of this weekend's United States Grand Prix. He said there would be no imminent announcement on his future.

"I think I've got time on my side to see how everything shapes up," he said. "It gives me time to not only focus on the end of this season but also the beginning of next year."

He's out of contract at Red Bull at the end of next season. With his current team talking about increasingly building itself around Max Verstappen, it's no surprise if Ricciardo is feeling a little unloved at Milton Keynes.

Sky Sports F1 commentator and pundit Martin Brindle suggested this weekend that Mercedes has Ricciardo in its sights for 2019.

"For me, it tells us that [Red Bull] know Ricciardo is off,” Brundle said when asked about the recent pro-Verstappen comments from team boss Christian Horner. “It tells me Ricciardo will be in a Mercedes in 2019.”

Hamilton's current team mate Valtteri Bottas recently signed a one-year contract extension for 2018. It means his tenure at Brackley expires at the same time that Ricciardo becomes a free agent.

Red Bull will also part with its current engine provider Renault at the end of next year. A replacement is yet to be announced, leaving the team's future uncertain. But for the time being at least, Ricciardo is staying firmly loyal to Red Bull.

“I like the brand a lot and obviously I like the team a lot," he insisted. "We've always been a good fit for each other. From that side it's all been really good. But for sure the performance is the number one box to tick.

“If I can be in fast car, if I can be with a top team, that’s the criteria. That would be the biggest thing.

“It’s exactly what [Red Bull] need to be doing," he added. "It’s all moving in the right direction. Everything is super positive at the moment.

"But it's been like this before, also last year and towards the end of most seasons," he cautioned. "We've kinda gone up but then for whatever reason we've dropped a bit down for the start of following season."

Asked whether the early season performance of the team's 2018 chassis could be the deciding factor regarding whether he stays or goes, Ricciardo said: "I think so, yeah."

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