With almost three weeks still left until Formula One action returns after 12 rounds in the season already concluded, the most sensational bit of news at the moment has come out of Red Bull as Daniel Ricciardo is set to leave the team at the end of 2018.
Ricciardo, who will complete five seasons with the UK-based outfit this calendar year, will be joining Renault in 2019 and has signed a two-year deal with Red Bull’s long-term engine suppliers, agreeing a £20m-a-year deal.
It was initially believed that renewing his current contract with Red Bull would just be a formality.
Mercedes and Ferrari were the two heavyweights linked with Ricciardo, but the scenario took a dramatic turn in the week as it was announced Renault had won the race for his signature.
Renault have announced Nico Hulkenberg as Ricciardo’s partner from next season, although Red Bull are yet to name the replacement of their departing driver.
Unsurprisingly, the news regarding Ricciardo came as a bit of a shock to the F1 world, but it also came as a shock to Red Bull officials.
According to a fresh report from the Daily Mail, all officials were expecting the Australian to stay with the team, and they were so confident of that, they actually pre-recorded a clip announcing the renewal of his contract, ready for it to be aired when the announcement was made.
However, a phone call from Ricciardo to Horner on Thursday changed everything, as that's when the driver informed his boss of his decision.
And now, according to the same report, it's been revealed how Red Bull officials really feel about Ricciardo's decision.
The Daily Mail says that people behind the scenes believe Ricciardo is just running away from his partner Max Verstappen.
However, the 29-year-old himself has revealed the desire to seek a 'fresh challenge' is the only motivating factor for him signing with the French manufacturers.
Ricciardo said in the Renault press release: “It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far.
“But I thought that it was time for me to take on a fresh and new challenge.
“I realise that there is a lot ahead in order to allow Renault to reach their target of competing at the highest level but I have been impressed by their progression in only two years, and I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won.
“I hope to be able to help them in this journey and contribute on and off track.”
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly remains the favourite to fill the vacancy, while Carlos Sainz is also in consideration to partner Verstappen from 2019.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: https://www.givemesport.com/writeforgms