Horner: ‘Badly advised’ Ricciardo wrong to snub Red Bull offer

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Christian Horner says a “very badly advised” Daniel Ricciardo was wrong in 2018 to turn down an offer from Red Bull for the following season that would have put him on the same retainer and terms as Max Verstappen.

After leaving McLaren at the end of last year, Ricciardo returned to Red Bull this season as a reserve driver for the championship winning outfit, a role that led to his race seat with AlphaTauri when he replaced the underperforming Nyck de Vries.

But the Aussie’s shock decision to leave Milton Keynes at the end of 2018 to join Renault is still debated to this day.

The move was met with surprise and skepticism by many, as Ricciardo was widely considered to be one of the top drivers in the sport and well-positioned to challenge for the championship with Red Bull.

Pundits speculated that Ricciardo was scared away from the team by Verstappen’s unstoppable rise to prominence and lured to Renault by a very generous two-year deal.

At the time, the Aussie justified his decision by his desire for a new challenge and a belief that Renault could provide him with the opportunity to win races and championships.

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Looking back on his dealings with F1’s Honey Badger in 2018, Horner revealed the inner-workings of a decision that was both ill-inspired and ill-timed by his driver, and which happened despite the personal intervention of Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz.

“Daniel is a great guy, who was very badly advised earlier in his career,” Horner explained, speaking on the recent Eff Won podcast.

“Everybody f***s up at some point and I think he recognised that he made a mistake, he had not good advice around him at the point he left us and he could see that Max was growing, and probably didn’t realise just how good he was going to be.

“It was obvious at that stage that Max was coming and you could just see the raw talent, it just needed polishing a bit. So we gave Max a contract at the beginning of 2018 to secure his future.

“And Daniel I remember being upset at the time. He suddenly felt that he didn’t want to be the support act here, and I could tell he was starting to think about being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. He got a lot of noise in his ear about money on the table.

“I spoke to our owner Dietrich Mateschitz before the Austrian Grand Prix and I said: ‘Look, it’s a bit marginal with Daniel [regarding him signing a new contract], can you just show him some love, because Helmut [Marko, Red Bull advisor] is obviously very pro-Max? Just balance things out and let him know that you want him?’

“So he took Daniel upstairs after the race in Austria, and they were gone for well over an hour and then they reappear both with smiles on their faces.”


That day, during their one-on-one, Mateschitz agreed to offer Ricciardo a contract that matched the terms and dollar amount agreed upon by Verstappen.

“I said, ‘What did you agree with him?’ and he [Mateschitz] said ‘We’ll just give him whatever Max is on.’

“I was like: ‘Wow, do you know what we pay Max?’ and so I gave him the number and he said, ‘Who the f*** agreed to that’ and I said, ‘Well, you did.’

“He said: ‘Oh that’s a lot of money, but he’s a great guy, so let’s do it, give him the same deal that Max has.’

“So his [Daniel’s] agent is obviously jumping through hoops at the time, and that was for a two-year deal.

“We went to Hungary, we got all the paperwork sorted out. Then his manager came to me and said, ‘Daniel’s really nervous about the engine situation, we’ll do one year.’”

The prospect of working with Honda in 2019 which had yet to produce a competitive and reliable F1 power unit didn’t thrill Ricciardo. But again, Mateschitz accepted the latter’s request for a one-year deal.

“I spoke to Dietrich, he said ‘Look, it’s about relationships, it’s not about contracts. If he wants a year, give him a year.'”

But eventually, after carefully weighing his options, Riccardo opted to switch his allegiance to Renault, a choice that baffled Horner but also disappointed the Briton.

“He rings me, and he’s like, ‘I’ve just got off the plane. I’ve been thinking on the flight on the way here. I’m not going to sign the contract. I’m going to take another contract.’

“I was like ‘Wow, okay, have Mercedes or Ferrari come through with something?’ And he went, ‘No, I’m going to sign for Renault.’

“Because Daniel’s got a sense of humour, I was convinced he’s taking the p**s here. ‘You’re not going to Renault, stop f*****g about, just tell me when you are going to sign that contract.

“So after about 10 minutes, he finally persuaded me that he was gonna go to Renault, and it was disappointing.”

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