DRIVER MARKET: Ricciardo cools Ferrari talk as he insists he ‘wants to make it work’ with Renault
With Sebastian Vettel currently out of contract at the end of 2020 at Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo has been widely talked about as a possible replacement should his former Red Bull team mate part ways with the Prancing Horse. But while Ricciardo admitted that he would happily pick up the phone to Ferrari, he insisted that making it work with his current Renault team was his top priority for this season.
Talking alongside McLaren’s Carlos Sainz during Wednesday’s lunchtime press conference at Barcelona pre-season testing – and flanked uncomfortably by Renault Executive Director Marcin Budkowski – Ricciardo was asked how much he would love to drive for Ferrari in 2021, and his initial response was typically Ricciardo-esque: “Sebastian is a nice guy," he said. "And he was born two days after me but two years earlier. Das ist super, ja?”
But pushed on comments he’d reportedly made a few weeks earlier that he’d accept a phone call from Ferrari if it came, Ricciardo moved to clarify his position. “I will answer [their] calls for sure, but I most importantly want this to work [with Renault].
I really want to make this work, and obviously the step to that is getting more out of this year than we did last year
“I don't want it to feel like I've just come to Renault, got away from Red Bull and then I’m looking for the next best thing [somewhere else],” Ricciardo went on. “I really want to make this happen and make it work, and obviously the step to that is getting more out of this year than we did last year, and hopefully getting enough out of it that the journey continues beyond my two-year contract.
“That's the, let's say, ideal scenario. To talk about other what-ifs and the future here and there, it's still too early, and... you don't want to rock the boat obviously as well, but… we haven't even started this year so to already start thinking about '21... I can't think about it now.”
Alongside Ricciardo, Sainz is another driver who’s both out of contract at the end of the season and currently being talked about as a possible replacement for Vettel. But if Ricciardo was being cheekily evasive on the subject, Sainz was strictly no-nonsense when asked about a move to Ferrari, responding firmly to a question on whether he suspected Vettel would be the main catalyst in the 2021 driver market.
“I don't know and at the moment I don't really care if Sebastian's going to be the catalyst or not,” Sainz replied. “I think as you guys know, I'm very happy in McLaren, I feel very much part of this project, part of this medium to long-term project and probably I cannot start thinking about anything else, unless it's wanting this year to be a step forward from last year and keep working in the same direction, with the same objectives, and we will see at the end of the year.”