Red Bull boss Helmut Marko has all-but confirmed that Daniel Ricciardo’s future lies with another Formula One team, while indicating that the team will focus on building around Max Verstappen.
Speaking to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Marko appeared to confirm that they would let Ricciardo listen to offers for the 2019 season.
“Verstappen has a longer contract,” Marko said.
“But Ricciardo is already on the market. We have to look for alternatives. We will not be unprepared.”
Verstappen, of course, is coming off the back of winning the Malaysian Grand Prix, just the second Grand Prix win of his career.
Partnering him with Ricciardo, Red Bull currently have two of the most promising and talented young drivers on the grid, but it appears the future of the team can only be built around one of them, and it seems as though Marko has earmarked 20-year-old Verstappen for that role.
As far as replacements for Ricciardo go, Carlos Sainz, a rising star from Red Bull’s development ranks, could be a potential candidate.
He is due to be loaned out to Renault next season, but Red Bull has the option to stop the move should Ricciardo depart.
Pierre Gasly debuted for junior team Toro Rosso while in Malaysia last week and could be another potential candidate to fill the void.
With a slow start and engine issues plaguing the team all season, Red Bull might be fearful that their young stars could be drawn to rival teams who can provide them with cars capable of winning a world title, but Marko is adamant that Red Bull are working to fix the issues they’ve been having and promises that they will make a better start in 2018.
“We are ensuring that it does not happen again (the slow start),” he said.
“There is a new procedure in the wind tunnel and we are not even finished developing this car.”
Ricciardo, 28, has five Grand Prix wins to his name, but compared to his teammate Verstappen, age isn’t exactly on his side.
Having been a driver for Red Bull his entire F1 career, it will undoubtedly be tough for the Aussie to leave, but perhaps a move to a new team will prove to be the catalyst his career needs in order to propel him to the top, something he’s flirted with for a long time.