Daniel Ricciardo has opened up on the contract dilemmas ahead of the “most important” decision of his career, admitting “there’s a lot at stake” as he ponders his Red Bull future.
The Australian only has a year remaining on his current deal with the team who have supported his entire Formula 1 journey, and is set to enter 2018 as one of the quickest and most sought-after ‘free agents’ on the grid.
The Australian is regarded as one of the best overtakers in F1 and his fifth-place finish in the Drivers’ Championship this year has come in spite of a string of mechanical retirements.
But the 29-year-old has refused to rush into any decision over his contract, citing Hamilton as the example he would like to follow.
“The next deal will take me into my 30s, so it’s not like I’m the young unproven kid who’ll sign anything just to get on the grid, or at the other end of my career when I’m hanging on and doing things year by year ,” Ricciardo said.
“I’m not just going to settle on something because I want it to be off my mind, because there’s a lot at stake. It’s a big decision for me, so if I need to take time to make it, I will.
“You look at Lewis and when he did his Mercedes deal, he was the same age as I am now if I remember correctly.
“He was already doing very well where he was, but his career has really taken off since then.
“So, there’s a lot to consider.”
He added: “You can get caught up in too many opinions with this, so I’ll use some people close to me as a sounding board and kick it around with some friends just to have the conversation, but I don’t like to have too many people getting involved.
Ferrari and Mercedes would appear to be his most likely suitors, and Ricciardo has previously claimed he would relish pitting himself against Sebastian Vettel, who he partnered and out-scored at Red Bull in 2014, and Lewis Hamilton.
“It has to come from me, I’m the one who has to live it.
“I know what I want, and the performance side is more important than ticking the money box, if you like.
“Having the chance to be able to fight for something really meaningful – races, championships – that’s the absolute priority. It’s not even close.
“Being in the position to make the decision is something cool, something unusual, and something where I feel like I’ll probably learn a lot.
“No matter what happens, it’ll be a growing experience for me because it’s something I’ve not been through.
“It’ll be nice to stand on my own two feet and make some grown-up decisions. Maybe even act like an adult!”
After tying down Max Verstappen to a new three-year contract, Red Bull insisted they wanted Ricciardo to make a similar commitment – but the five-time race winner has detailed how he is no rush just yet.