With Ferrari formula one ace Sebastian Vettel calling time on his career with the Italian team, Australian Daniel Ricciardo is set for some sleepless nights as he ponders his future.
Since the collapse of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in March, Ricciardo has been training in lockdown on his farm in Western Australia, aware that he may have to make a decision on his tenure at Renault before even racing in 2020.
Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of this year and told The New Daily two weeks ago that if the call came about his availability it would be a perplexing situation.
“It’s going to be [difficult]. We may be having contract talks before any cars touch to track,” said Ricciardo, having driven only one disappointing season for Renault after his high-profile switch from Red Bull.
“Obviously we did testing in February, but even with testing [it’s] so hard.”
With his Italian family background and solid record of seven Grand Prix wins, the Australian has long been mooted as a good fit for Ferrari, which has locked in young Frenchman Charles Leclerc until the end of 2024.
Asked how he would make a decision about ending his Renault project without knowing if the car had improved this season, Ricciardo said there would be multiple factors at play.
I dunno if it’s go with your gut. I mean at times maybe, but there’s a lot of pieces to every puzzle.
“That’s where you also rely on a team around you as far as agents and … the people working for you to give you as much insight as possible.
“And I don’t really read too much as far as articles [are concerned], but if they pick a few things up and see some trends, maybe that can help with putting all the pieces together.
“Essentially, I drive the car and I see what we’re doing inside our team and for sure I get an idea of what others are doing around the other teams. So I think, [I will] see how it all looks once it’s in front of you.
“They are big decisions to make. So time will tell which way it turns.”
It has been suggested that four-time world champion Vettel could do a seat swap with 30-year-old Ricciardo to continue his career at Renault, but at this stage Vettel is uncertain about his future.
“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said in a statement.
Vettel said he would reassess his priorities.
“The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season,” Vettel said.
“Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.
“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life.”
Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 after winning all of his titles with Red Bull and dreaming of emulating his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher, who took five of his seven titles with the Maranello-based team.
The German had spent his last year at Red Bull being outperformed by then teammate Ricciardo, and last season he found himself in a similar situation with Leclerc
Formula One has deferred to 2022 a major technical rule change planned for 2021, meaning teams will use the same cars next year as this.
The sport hopes to resume racing behind closed doors in Austria in July.
Ricciardo told The New Daily that once racing resumes he hoped to make the most of the disrupted season by being fit and ready to go.
“I don’t think the style of racing will change … the first race, everyone’s going to be pretty raw,” he said.
“We haven’t competed in a long time [but] I don’t think there’ll be a change in approach.
“We’ll set the bar higher and I believe we can.”