Red Bull plan Daniel Ricciardo talks next year but have 2019 'options'
Red Bull and Ricciardo both waiting on potential of 2018 car; But Horner says team have 'options' to replace Australian
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 26/12/17 7:44am
Christian Horner says it is Red Bull's "priority" to extend Daniel Ricciardo's contract once they discover the potential of their 2018 car.
But the Red Bull boss has also insisted the team have plenty of options to replace Ricciardo should he decide his future lies elsewhere.
After 10 years in the Red Bull stable, helped through the junior formula before joining the senior outfit in 2014, the Australian is preparing for the "biggest decision" of his career as he enters the final 12 months of his contract.
Ricciardo says he will only commit his future once he knows if he has a race and possibly title-winning car, a view Horner understands as the team principal predicts talks in the new year.
"We've just come through a long hard season, so the last thing we're going to be doing is getting into the depths of contract discussions," Horner told Sky Sports News' Craig Slater.
"But I think early in the new year, once we've seen how the car's performing, how things are panning out, then it's our priority to make sure that we retain Daniel in the team until at least 2020."
Though he out-scored Max Verstappen in 2017, Ricciardo was regularly outshone by his team-mate. Verstappen, hailed as a future world champion by Red Bull, has been tied down to a long-term deal.
But Ricciardo, a five-time race winner, doesn't have the same amount of time on his side as he enters the prime years of his career.
"It's a different scenario for Daniel," Horner admitted. "It's the first time he's effectively a free agent.
"It's also a critical time in his career, he's 28 years of age. This next step is going to be crucial for him and we just want to make sure we give him the right car to be able to deliver his potential."
As a consistently quick driver with an infectious personality, Ricciardo wouldn't be short of suitors if he opted against signing a new deal. Horner, however, also believes Red Bull have alternatives.
The Red Bull production line has slowed in recent years, but the team still have Carlos Sainz 'on loan' at Renault and are optimistic about their young drivers coming through the ranks.
"It's always good to have options," Horner added. "We've invested a lot in the young driver programme over the years and we've got some great talent on the programme.
"We're certainly not short of options."
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