Christian Horner says the fear of playing a supporting role to Max Verstappen played a part in Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave Aston Martin Red Bull Racing in favour of a drive with the Renault Sport Formula One Team in 2019.
Following months of uncertainty, Ricciardo made the surprise decision to swap Milton Keynes for Enstone after the Hungarian Grand Prix, and his outgoing team principal feels that the presence of Verstappen within the team made him make the switch, as he would have no desire to play second fiddle to the Dutchman.
“Daniel said he decided after a long flight to America that he wanted a change,” said Horner on the official Formula 1 podcast. “If you look at the rational reasons for that, it’s difficult to understand.
“Daniel had his reasons. I think it comes back to wanting to take on, his words, ‘a new challenge’. But I also feel he sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn’t want to play a support role I guess, for want of better words.
“It’s not that they were treated in any way different. They would have absolute equal status, as they’ve always had. I can’t help but feel that was perhaps a large part of Daniel’s decision.”
Horner insists the move was not down to money or status within the team, and it was just Ricciardo’s decision to jump ship to try something different from next season.
“The competition between him and Max is intense,” said Horner. “I think Daniel’s just decided the timing is right for him to check out and try something else.
“We’ve bent over backwards to make it happen. We gave Daniel everything he wanted and asked for, and it still wasn’t enough in his mind to say he wants to stay at Red Bull.
“So, it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about status, or commitment, or duration.”