MILTON KEYNES (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo is set to stay with Red Bull next season unless Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton suddenly announces his retirement in the next few days, team boss Christian Horner said on Tuesday.
The race-winning Australian, who turned 29 last Sunday, is out of contract at the end of the year and has been mulling his options for months.
He has had Mercedes and Ferrari in his sights but, despite potential vacancies at both teams, neither has seemed interested.
“We’ve now got to the point where there is a desire from both sides to continue the relationship,” Horner told reporters at the Red Bull factory ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
“So it’s just a matter of now really going through the detail and coming to a conclusion which will certainly be done prior to the summer (August) break.”
With Mercedes winning the last four drivers’ and constructors’ championships, and trading the lead with Ferrari this year, Horner recognised the champions could have lured Ricciardo away.
“I think that had Mercedes put a serious offer on the table, or an offer, he would have been potentially interested,” said the Briton.
“He’s impatient to try and challenge for a world title so I think he would have had his head turned in the event of a Mercedes or a Ferrari offer but I think those two teams look pretty set where they are.”
Mercedes have yet to confirm either of their drivers for 2019, with Hamilton expected to agree a lucrative new deal imminently and Finland’s Valtteri Bottas also expected to stay.
Ferrari have Ricciardo’s former team mate Sebastian Vettel, a four times world champion who is leading Hamilton by a single point ahead of Silverstone, confirmed with Monegasque rookie Charles Leclerc favourite to replace Kimi Raikkonen.
Horner said the ever-smiling Ricciardo suited Red Bull’s brand image and was a popular member of a team set to trade Renault engines for Honda power next year.
Asked whether Ricciardo would get equal money to 20-year-old Dutch hotshot Max Verstappen, winner in Austria last weekend, Horner said only that each had their own value.
“Obviously, one of the things he was waiting to understand was where we were going with engines as well. He’s seen and understood the decision making behind where we’ve gone,” said Horner.
“Hopefully, the rest of it becomes a formality, unless Lewis announces his retirement at the British Grand Prix this weekend.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond