Ricciardo going to Renault is a surprising, but somewhat understandable move. Sure, at the moment it looks like a step back down the grid, but Renault is on the up and if it goes well and Red Bull struggle with Honda next year, we’ll be hailing it as a brilliant move.
It could have been different though – not because Ricciardo could have ended up at Ferrari or Mercedes, but because he was looking at McLaren as a serious option (no, really). Zak Brown believes he was close to signing the Aussie, telling Racer:
“We had a couple of meetings and we are big fans of Daniel. I think he’s a great guy, I think he’s a great race car driver. How close we came to getting him, I think only Daniel knows the answer to that question. “Had we been running more competitively I think that would have increased our odds. I think he had a strong desire to leave and I think it was probably pretty close between us and Renault, but ultimately Daniel would be best to tell you how close. But he was certainly someone that we rate very highly and think he’s a great race car driver and a great guy.”
Ricciardo to McLaren would have been even more shocking, but it might offer some insight into the future driver line-up of the Woking squad. Is the fact the team was looking for a proven race-winner with potential championship credentials indicate that Alonso – a driver of similar (though arguably better) qualities – is on his way out? Well, probably not – with a driver like Ricciardo on the market, any team with space available would make enquiries, regardless of who its drivers are.
McLaren still has a driver dilemma for next year, though. Some sort of combination of Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sainz seems likely, but as Ricciardo showed, you can never be sure of anything with the driver market.