SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Red Bull hope they can convince Daniel Ricciardo to stay with them after giving the Australian a winning car in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
The victory, from sixth on the starting grid, was a morale-booster for the 28-year-old after a frustrating start to the season and comes as he is deciding his next career move.
Out of contract at the end of the year, Ricciardo has been linked in media speculation to Ferrari and Formula One champions Mercedes.
“I think Daniel’s happy in the environment. If we can give him a car like we did today, why would he want to be anywhere else?,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told reporters in Shanghai.
“He had the energy store failure in Bahrain, he had a turbo failure here yesterday, losing him important track time,” recognised the Briton.
“You get to a point where you think ‘what next?’. But it’s a great confidence booster for him, to get this result now in this point in the year. Everything is wide open.”
Mercedes, the dominant team in Formula One for the past four seasons, have yet to win in three races.
Ferrari won in Australia and Bahrain with four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, who may not relish the prospect of his former Red Bull team mate joining him at Maranello.
Red Bull’s future engine partner remains uncertain, however, with the team mulling whether to continue with Renault or switch to the Honda units now being used by the energy drink company’s Toro Rosso outfit.
The Honda engine, while seemingly much improved this year after three years of failure in the back of a McLaren, remains behind rivals on power.
Red Bull have made clear since last year that they want Ricciardo to stay alongside 20-year-old Dutch driver Max Verstappen, a hot prospect whose race on Sunday was marred by needless overtaking errors.
“He’s a very rounded driver now. He’s absolutely at the top of his game and I think he has been for the last couple of years,” Horner said of the Australian.
“He’s hit that balance of experience and pace. He’s one of the best overtakers in the business and his judgement is impeccable in terms of judging a gap.
“I feel he’s in a different part of his career to where Max is at the moment, who is still very young and fresh and going through that experience.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge