‘I left for a kaleidoscope of reasons:’ Daniel Ricciardo insists he did not leave Red Bull for Renault because he was ‘scared’ of Max Verstappen
- Daniel Ricciardo joined Renault for this season on a £20million-per-year contract
- Former team principal Christian Horner said he was ‘running away from a fight’
- Ricciardo however says he thinks Renault can compete as a top three team
Daniel Ricciardo goes into the season-opening Australian Grand Prix insisting that he did not leave Red Bull because he was scared of former team-mate Max Verstappen.
Ricciardo was answering the accusation made by his ex-team principal Christian Horner, who said the Australian was ‘running away from a fight’ by joining Renault for nearly £20million a year.
Ahead of his home race, and Renault debut, on Sunday, Ricciardo said: ‘No, I love a good fight. It wasn’t about Max. I can understand why Red Bull would say that but it’s wrong. I left for a kaleidoscope of reasons.’
Daniel Ricciardo has dismissed the claim he was ‘running away from a fight’ at Red Bull
Ricciardo said clashes with ex-Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen weren’t reason for exit
While Ricciardo had lost all chance of No 1 billing at Red Bull to the 21-year-old Verstappen, he was also aggrieved when jointly blamed for the collision with the Dutchman at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
‘Both Max and I got a talking to, putting it politely,’ said Ricciardo, 29. ‘But in my eyes I was not really in the wrong. I guess the way it was handled at the time didn’t sit too well with me.’
Renault finished fourth last year, markedly behind the top three of Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
The Australian joined Renault from Red Bull on a £20million-per-year contract for new season
Pierre Gasly has taken the place of Ricciardo and will partner Verstappen this season
The affable Aussie believes Renault can compete among the top three teams this year
‘I was aware when I signed my Renault deal that in Melbourne Red Bull were going to be in front,’ said Ricciardo, who starts 2019 with a combative new slogan on his helmet: ‘Play Dirty. Stay Fair.’
‘I’m not going to be bitter if my old team beat us here. I feel we’re on a different journey.
‘I know probably a lot of people think, “Ah, if he were to beat Red Bull how good would that be sticking it to them?” It’s honestly not like that. If we could overcome any of the top three I’d be stoked.’
Ricciardo, who will partner Nico Hulkenberg, added: ‘Seeing what I’ve seen so far at Renault there are enough resources to get into that world. I don’t think mixing it in the top three is unattainable.
‘It might not be this year but it’s not a permanent handicap. I joined to be a world champion here in the end.’