It was suggested to Daniel Ricciardo this week finishing the 2020 Formula One season with Renault after signing with McLaren for next season will be “like you’ve split with your partner and yet you have to continue to live in the same house together for the next six months”.
“That’s a pretty good analogy,” Ricciardo said. “From my side it’s like, OK, there’s still a ton of people within this organisation who are really happy to have me here and who are excited to see me drive a black and yellow race car.
“So obviously again, I’ll do it for myself because I want to compete and race but I still want to give back to them everything I signed up for.”
But F1 expert Martin Brundle fears it won’t be that easy as Sebastian Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari, and Carlos Sainz, who is leaving McLaren to replace Vettel, also prepare for awkward reunions with their current teams when the season starts in Austria this weekend.
“Intra-team politics are going to be a big story as it’s certainly unusual for teams to know before a season starts that one of their drivers is leaving,” he told Sky Sports.
“You normally get those kind of shock, breaking news lines between July and September when you’re two thirds of the way through the season, not before it has even begun.
“Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz have got to walk into their garages and start a season when it’s already absolutely known that they are leaving. With all the sensitive data and systems you are quickly persona non grata in these situations.
“Especially for Daniel, for example. He’s going to a team with generally a very similar performance level and they’re just going to be increasingly keeping some things away from him whatever they might say. They’ll also be bruised that he thinks McLaren is a better opportunity than Renault.
“With these dynamics at play it’s inevitable they’ll meet up in combat at some point … Ricciardo is going to be banging wheels with a McLaren.
“And if you’re one of those teams it’s clear where your loyalties will lie.”
Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul told French newspaper L’Equipe he is considering Mercedes No. 2 Valtteri Bottas and Vettel for Ricciardo’s seat.
“Valtteri is a driver who has caused problems for Hamilton and still has a lot to give. And he wants to show that,” Abiteboul said. “Vettel is free, and if he is strongly motivated to continue racing, then he will also be in our interest.”
In what appeared to be a comment pointed at Ricciardo, Abiteboul said “we want to find someone ready to commit with us”.
But he is hopeful of success in 2020 too. “We would like to move forward together this year, fighting McLaren, our direct rival on the track,” he said. “Daniel has a huge desire to win.”