It’s official — Daniel Ricciardo is headed to McLaren.
In one of the worst kept secrets in the world right now, the Western Australian F1 superstar will move to McLaren, into the seat left vacant by Carlos Sainz Jr.
Things move quickly in Formula One after Sebastian Vettel became the first domino to fall, announcing he would be walking away from Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season earlier this week.
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Currently sidelined due to the coronavirus pandemic, it remains to be seen how many races Vettel has left for the prancing horse.
But after leaving the door open at one of the big three, the seat was hotly contested between Ricciardo and Sainz Jr., in the end it was the 25-year-old Spaniard who was announced to replace Vettel and partner up with Charles Leclerc.
News of Sainz joining Ferrari landed shortly after Ricciardo’s blockbuster switch to McLaren was announced.
McLaren were proud to trumpet the signing with CEO of McLaren Racing Zak Brown looking forward to working with Ricciardo.
“Signing Daniel is another step forward in our long-term plan and will bring an exciting new dimension to the team, alongside Lando,” he said. “This is good news for our team, partners and of course our fans.
“I also want to pay tribute to Carlos for the excellent job he has been doing for McLaren in helping our performance recovery plan. He is a real team player and we wish him well for his future beyond McLaren.”
Team principal Andreas Seidl added that Ricciardo was key to returning McLaren to its glory days, having won eight constructors titles previously, the most behind Ferrari with 16 and Williams with nine.
It’s last champion was Lewis Hamilton in 2008, which was his first world title.
It comes less than a week after Renault principal Cyril Abiteboul declared there was more to come from Ricciardo’s “journey” with the team, although Ricciardo had admitted he would keep his options open on developments at other teams.
Ricciardo finished ninth in the 2019 drivers’ championship, his worst finish since 2013.
The Aussie was all class with announcement on social media, writing “we aren’t done and I can’t wait to get back on the grid this year. My next chapter isn’t here yet, so let’s finish this one strong”.
Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul said the team would continue to with its strategy going forward.
“In our sport, and particularly within the current extraordinary situation, reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment are, more than ever, critical values for a works team,” he said. “I am confident that the 2020 season will allow us to accomplish even more together. Our ambitions and the strategy of Renault DP World F1 Team remain unchanged.”
Ricciardo will team up with 20-year-old Lando Norris. A prospect that has fans salivating over the line up with the pair already sharing plenty of laughs and proving to be two of the more popular drivers with their antics.
This included a press conference last season when Ricciardo left Norris crying tears of laughter when the 30-year-old Aussie asked him if he had “any pubes yet”.
For Ricciardo’s seat at Renault, former World Champion Fernando Alonso is expected to be offered the seat, or Vettel, although other reports have the German looking for either a Mercedes move or retirement. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are both off contract at the end of 2020.
But Racing Point’s Sergio Perez told Motorsport.com that Vettel was “closer to retirement than another team”.
Former F1 star David Coulthard told Fox Sports News that the decision could have come down to personality and pedigree that the decision came down for Ferrari to go with Sainz.
“Carlos is a different personality, maybe not as flamboyant, that’s probably not the right word for Daniel but he’s probably a bit more out there and a bit more creative on social media,” he said. “I think Carlos is a bit more classically professional in his approach, very straight forward, I would have no reason to doubt he was honest.
“Look at the family DNA, his father is an incredible legend of motorsport in his own right and incredibly approachable, but I think they’re a wonderful family. Not that I don’t think Daniel has a wonderful family but if it ends up going Carlos’ route that would be a tremendous opportunity, a huge challenge as well for anyone who’s going to be a teammate to Charles because he’s clearly top drawer.”
Carlos Sainz Sr. is a motorsport legend, having won two World Rally Championship titles.