Palmer fears Ricciardo going 'backwards' with Renault switch

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
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Former Formula 1 driver Jolyon Palmer has said that Daniel Ricciardo's decision to leave Red Bull Racing and join Renault in 2019 could be a negative move for the Australian.

"To be honest, it's a backwards move for Ricciardo," Palmer told BBC Radio 5 Live on Friday, suggesting that Renault is not yet up to Red Bull's level.

"They're a team that's on the up but they are currently behind, there's no two ways about it."

Ricciardo had been widely believed to be planning to stay with Red Bull after looking at possible openings at teams including Mercedes and McLaren. He had promised an announcement on it before the Belgian Grand Prix.

In the end, the news came somewhat earlier - and wasn't what everyone had been expecting.

But Palmer could understand why Ricciardo has made the jump. The former driver for Renault with 35 grand Prix starts to his name felt that the role of team mate Max Verstappen was likely the biggest factor in Ricciardo's choice.

Verstappen had previously signed a big-money extension to stay at Milton Keynes through to 2020. The team has increasingly felt focussed on the Dutch phenomenon, leaving Ricciardo looking something of a spare wheel.

"At Red Bull, I felt - and he probably felt - that he was just starting to slide into Verstappen's shadow," noted Palmer. "And that's a dangerous place to be."

That won't be the case at Enstone. Although he'll be partnered with the experienced Nico Hulkenberg, there's no question that Ricciardo will be expected to function as the team's number one driver in 2019.

"He's come into a team that will be really excited to have him," Palmer continued. "They'll be really pinning a lot of hopes on him to move forwards.

"It's a little bit of the whole dynamic within the team which is better for him at Renault," he added. "Even if they're technically a little bit behind.

While Ricciardo has always insisted that it's his next team's prospects of winning the world champion that was his prime motivation, in Palmer's view the financial side of the deal was inevitably a major part in negotiations.

"I think money would have been a factor of sorts, because Verstappen was paid a lot of money to stay with Red Bull last year."

With Verstappen having got a big pay hike with his contract extension, Red Bull probably weren't looking at giving Ricciardo a similar raise, which could have confirmed the Australian's feeling that it was time to move on.

Ricciardo's decision leaves an open seat at this old team. And the man he's replacing at Renault, Carlos Sainz, could be the front runner for the spot.

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