Renault tried to steal Ricciardo for 2018
Renault tried to steal Daniel Ricciardo away from Red Bull for the 2018 Formula 1 season as part of a complicated engine swap deal between McLaren and Toro Rosso.
According to reports, the French manufacturer is set to switch its supply of engines from the Red Bull feeder team to McLaren, with the beleaguered Honda engines set to move the other way.
It’s understood part of the swap included Renault targeting one of Red Bull’s drivers, and while they ultimately secured Carlos Sainz, Ricciardo was the squad’s first pick.
Renault has been on the hunt for a new team-mate for Nico Hulkenberg next year, and sensed a good opportunity to get one of Red Bull’s roster in exchange for letting Toro Rosso switch to Honda.
Sources have revealed that at one stage, as discussions reached a crunch point for the engine changes to go ahead, Renault made a bid to get Ricciardo instead.
Ricciardo’s form against Max Verstappen makes him one of the key players in the future driver market, especially with his contract at Red Bull coming to an end after next year.
But with Red Bull well aware of Ricciardo’s strengths and having no interest in letting him go, in the end Renault gave up its pursuit and focused efforts on Sainz instead.
Red Bull gave its blessing for Sainz to move to Renault, although there has been no official confirmation of the news, nor a final decision on when Sainz will make the switch.
Renault has been pushing to get Sainz in the car as early as possible – potentially from the Malaysian Grand Prix – with his place at Toro Rosso then taken, at least in the short term, by Red Bull junior and 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly.
But Renault’s current driver Jolyon Palmer is standing firm over the contract he has in place, and unless the two parties reach a compromise deal and agree to part ways there is no way open for Sainz to be slotted in.
Palmer was in a defiant mood in Singapore on Thursday when asked about his future situation, and the prospect of losing his seat from Malaysia.
“I have a contract. I’ve got seven more races this year,” he said.
“There have been suggestions for the past 35 races that I might not be at the next one, or in the next few, so this is nothing new for me.
“It’s water off a duck’s back now.”