The ink had barely dried on Max Verstappen’s extended contract, when talk turned to the future of Daniel Ricciardo.
Though admitting surprise that his teammate’s deal was concluded this early, the Australian insisted he would not be hurried into agreeing his own new deal, especially when Red Bull’s engine plans for beyond 2018 are not clear.
To further muddy the waters, it has been revealed that Verstappen’s new engine, which was only confirmed once FP3 was underway, but was revealed to the FIA over a week earlier, is an upgraded unit, understood to contain 2018 component, worth up to two-tenths of a second.
In fact Renault has provided the upgraded units to each of its customer teams, but in each case only one of the engines is available, and it is highly unlikely that a second unit will be provided before the end of the season.
Considering he out-qualified Verstappen, upgraded engine and all, Ricciardo’s reaction to the news was to punch the air in delight. However, he insists that he does not believe there is favouritism within the team, and that should he suspect that is the case he would speak out.
“Up until now I have not seen or experienced anything,” he told reporters. “I can’t predict the future but at least up until now there has not been any favouritism. If there was you’d know about it because I’d be expressing my frustration for sure. It is not something I’d hide.
“I am aware that he has broken some records, and Red Bull especially as a brand would like him to break more,” he added, referring to the contract extension. “That is fine. I get how it boosts the brands image.
“From a marketing point of view I get it, but behind our closed doors, from an engineering status and equality there has been nothing at all like that. You’d certainly know it if I was unhappy with how things were shaping up. And they have been fair. For sure the media gets excited, and I get it, but it is all been good.”
The upgraded engines for the customer teams have not yet been used and will only be used if needed. Ricciardo may need to use a new engine at one of the remaining races because, like Verstappen, his old engines had reached their limit, but even so his team would not have another engine to the same spec as his teammate.
The Australian, whose contract runs out at the end of 2018, and who has been linked with both Mercedes and Ferrari , insists that what will really influence his decision is whether Red Bull can provide a title winning car.
“The biggest thing for me looking forward is whether we can build a car that can win a title,” he said. “For sure if we come out next year and have a chance or put ourselves in a chance to win, then very likely I will want to stay on and extend my contract also. The performance is definitely still the number one box for me to tick.”