Daniel Ricciardo has admitted he was left frustrated by the lack of interest from Formula 1’s two top teams in a silly season that ultimately saw him sign with Renault.
The Australian announced his departure from Red Bull in August, catching the paddock off guard in the biggest move of the 2018 driver market.
The 29-year-old had been linked with a move to Ferrari, and even McLaren, while Red Bull made no secret of its desire to retain his services.
Though he elected to switch camps, speaking with Natalie Pinkham in the In the Pink podcast, Ricciardo admitted he was frustrated neither Ferrari nor Mercedes came knocking.
Both teams had openings, with Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas respectively out of contract.
“The next 12 months, I still think and everyone could say this, that Mercedes and Ferrari are still going to be the teams to beat,” Ricciardo said.
“Could be longer than that but I think it’s safe to say the next 12 months, and maybe other teams will take a win here and there but I think they’re still the team to be with short term.”
A stellar start to the 2018 season saw Ricciardo win two races in the first six, leaving him to describe himself as an outside championship contender alongside Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
That came at a time when the Australian was beginning to decide his future.
The Monaco Grand Prix winner justifiably felt his pull within the paddock was the strongest it had ever been, but admits he was unable to use it to its full.
“It was Seb, Lewis and me that had won two each – at that stage no-one else was kind of touching us in a way.
“I felt like my pull so to speak couldn’t have been any higher. In a way I did expect probably more out of that, at the time I think rightly so.
“But, again, it’s through this whole process it’s proven that nothing is expected, guaranteed, or anything at this level. There’s always layers to it.”
Ferrari ultimately elected to sign Charles Leclerc, the first Ferrari Driver Academy member the Scuderia has promoted to its main team, while Mercedes stuck by Bottas despite a tough campaign for the Finn.
“With what Ferrari’s done I see it and respect that because I’ve seen Red Bull do it, bringing the young kids through the program,” Ricciardo said.
“In a way I think it’s about time in terms of it’s worked for Red Bull. Seb was one, I was one, Max is one, and we’ve all won races if not championships in Seb’s case.
“It’s not like it hasn’t worked. So that, I obviously respect and understand.
“With the Merc one, it’s a slightly different dynamic with I guess the path they’ve chosen.
“I guess for them it’s more conservative but I can’t argue becasue it’s worked for them,” he added.
“It is what it is and I also don’t know everything and I don’t want to act like I do.
“There’s so much that goes on in this sport and part of me chooses not to know everything because my head would probably explode.”
Ricciardo also dismissed the notion that Hamilton or Vettel could have blocked his way into one of the sport’s two current powerhouse outfits.
“There’s an argument for (them blocking the move), for sure, and there’s probably an argument to say well no they’re two of the best drivers in the world, they’re confident, they believe they could beat anyone they go up against.
“Then obviously there’s the argument that they’re doing well as it is so why would they change it?
“Look, to be honest I don’t think they would have stopped it. Long story short I think an organisation as big as Ferrari or Mercedes, if they want to bring someone, they’ll do it.
“Seb and Lewis I’m sure have power, but not enough to say ‘guys you’re not going down this direction’.”
Ricciardo earlier this week made his debut in Renault colours ahead of the team’s launch on February 12.