Christian Horner thought Daniel Ricciardo's move to Renault was a wind-up

Max Verstappen

The Australian's contract is up at the end of the year and he will join the Renault works team for the 2019 season. The Spaniard will be hoping to take Ricciardo's vacant seat at Red Bull.

Ricciardo had suggested during the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test that a fresh Red Bull contract would be sorted after his summer holiday in the United States.

"I've got huge respect for Fernando, he's a great, fantastic driver, but it would be very hard to see", Horner said.

"I need to focus, make sure I'm fast and the rest will come".

'But I think it still wasn't enough, it wasn't about money, it wasn't about status, it wasn't about position or commitment or duration, ' he said.

"I could understand if it was to Mercedes or Ferrari, but it's an enormous risk at this stage in his career." he said.

Acknowledging Ricciardo's gamble on Renault "may prove an inspired choice or something he regrets", Horner also admitted he was caught by surprise when his driver informed him he was departing to Red Bull's engine providers. I said 'You what? "Max is growing stronger and stronger and I think Daniel has decided the timing is right for him to check out and try something else", Horner said.

Red Bull's sister team Toro Rosso have highly rated Frenchman Pierre Gasly in their ranks who could step up in Ricciardo's place. Gasly is driving for the Toro Rosso junior team this year and has impressed with a series of strong points finishes that could see him promoted to Red Bull.

But Ricciardo said he felt it was the right time to make the most hard decision of his life to date. I think it comes back to wanting to take on, his words, "a new challenge". Sainz is now on loan to Renault this season, but Red Bull could exercise an option on his services for next year.

Renault won its first Formula 1 race in 1979 at the French Grand Prix before the team left the competition at the close of the 1985 season. Other options include moving to McLaren alongside Fernando Alonso or as his successor.

"I don't care what teammate I have next season, because if I want to be the best, I have to fight against the best". Only once every two or three years does this occasion arise.

'And I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won'.

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