Secret footage of ‘awkward’ Ricciardo snub
Daniel Ricciardo's bombshell decision to leave Red Bull in 2018 has been captured in extraordinary, awkward detail in Netflix's newly released Formula 1: Drive To Survive documentary series.
The Australian's contract saga was one of the biggest talking points of the 2018 season before he eventually shocked the motorsport world by announcing a two-year deal with Renault, reportedly worth $70 million.
The critical moments that pushed Ricciardo out of the Red Bull garage, including the infamous crash between the 29-year-old and former teammate Max Verstappen at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, are revealed to viewers with mind-blowing behind the scenes footage.
In an extraordinary 10-part documentary series that takes viewers behind the curtain of Ricciardo's contract saga, it is revealed:
- Red Bull team principle Christian Horner on several occasions cheered for Verstappen over Ricciardo even before his contract announcement
- Ricciardo was irked by Red Bull's push to make Verstappen the youngest Formula 1 world champion from the very start of the 2018 season
- Verstappen was truly miserable having to watch Ricciardo celebrate his Monaco Grand Prix victory
- There is deep animosity and tension between Horner and Renault rival Cyril Abiteboul, as made evident in several awkward confrontations; and
- Ricciardo and agent Glenn Beavis have never forgotten the fact that they were made to play second fiddle to Verstappen when the Dutch star was signed to a long-term deal before the Australian.
Ricciardo last month responded to Horner's jab in the documentary that the Perth product was "running away from a fight" by choosing to move to Renault.
"I can see how people might want to think that or say that and everyone has an opinion and that hasn't been pulled from nowhere," Ricciardo said.
"I obviously say no, not true - I love a good fight. It's more about me than Max and a lot of reasons but one I've stated a few times, and I think some people understand it, but I was at Red Bull for five years.
"They had won four titles and I joined straight after that. So in five years from that first year, I was like, 'I'm going to win a world title, it's going to happen'. It didn't. We never really got close. I'm not bitter about it, it's just the reality."
In the documentary Ricciardo's concern that the team was shifting its priorities towards Verstappen is a constant theme.
In an interview with Ricciardo's agent Glenn Beavis aired on the Netflix special, it is made clear that Ricciardo's first step out the door began with the moment Verstappen announced a long-term deal with Red Bull at the end of 2017.
"I mean, look, they've invested a lot in Max," Ricciardo says in the doco.
"One thing Red Bull love to do is to create headlines. Break records. If he could be the youngest ever world champion. That's a dream scenario for them."
Beavis said: "We were both personally surprised when Max announced that he'd extended. "They're focus looked like Max, that he should be the youngest ever world champion. Those things aren't lost on us."
The evidence that the team had shifted its focus towards Verstappen was again on display in Baku where the two Red Bull Drivers took each other out of the race after Ricciardo rammed into the back of his rival because Verstappen made a late, second move while approaching turn one of the street circuit.
The pair were hauled into Helmut Marko's office, copped a beatdown from the Red Bull godfather and were forced to apologise to the entire team for the blunder.
Ricciardo and Verstappen were apportioned equal blame by the team - something that never sat comfortably with Ricciardo.
"I felt like I was not really in the wrong even though I was the one that hit him. I think most people saw the double move," he said
"I guess the way it was handled at the time didn't sit too well with me, so that was like a little thing that bothered me. But it wasn't the dealbreaker, if you know what I mean."
He said in the documentary the handling of the incident did hurt Red Bull's chances of keeping him.
"I was kind of made to feel guilt," he said.
"This year I'm going to be out of contract, and I'm thinking what am I going to achieve doing one more year with Red Bull? You know, I could be happier having a fresh start."
The rivalry between the two stars continued into Ricciardo's famous Monaco Grand Prix win where cameras captured the moment Horner discussed Ricciardo's contract stand-off with the Australian's father Joe Ricciardo.
"There are no No. 1 drivers here," Horner is heard saying in a private conversation.
"Nothing would give us greater pleasure than to see him achieve the world championship in one of our cars.
"I want you to know he's got a huge amount of support in the team. There's no pressure to have the youngest world champion or anything like that."
Ricciardo says in the documentary that he is confident his Monte Carlo masterclass would spark some big offers from rival teams.
Despite winning two of the first six races of the 2018 season, championship leaders Ferrari and Mercedes never came knocking. He's admitted since that he did expect more interest from the two Formula 1 powerhouse teams.
"If they really want me, they need to put something awesome in front of me and stack me up," he said of his next contract offer.
"Without being arrogant, I'm definitely going to have some serious offers on the table."
Despite the win in Monaco, Ricciardo eventually made the call to leave Red Bull in the summer break before the Belgian Grand Prix.
The documentary also emphasises how Ricciardo agonised over his decision because of his loyalty of a 10-year career with the Red Bull family.
"The deal with Red Bull. It's all in front of me now," he said in an interview filmed during the summer break.
"This is it. All I have to do now is sign the piece of paper. What if I just break free and make a statement. Red Bull have been there since I was 18. Now I have a chance to be an adult and walk into a team as an adult.
"I've decided to leave Red Bull and I'll be joining Renault for 2019. At times I've found myself frustrated and I just felt like I needed something different. I like new challenges and kind of having a fresh start."
He said seeing all his Red Bull staff at the Belgian Grand Prix after his announcement to leave left him in an "awkward" and "isolated" position.
It also further deepened the animosity between rivals Renault and Red Bull.
A personal feud between Horner and Abiteboul is one of the recurring themes in the documentary.
Cameras first captured the incredibly awkward moment the two team bosses came face to face during the 2018 season after Red Bull announced its plans to leave Renault as its engine supplier for rivals Honda.
Horner regularly publicly criticised the power and reliability of Renault engines during the season and reiterates in the documentary that "with that engine supply we were paying to fly first class, but ended up with an economy ticket".
Bumping into each other as they wait to walk into a teams briefing, the pair are seen refusing to acknowledge each other's presence despite standing just a couple feet from each other with nobody else around.
After more than 10 seconds of awkward silence Horner eventually breaks the tension by asking Abiteboul if his Renault factory executives were at the track for that race - on the day the team suffered the black eye of Red Bull's decision to leave.
Abiteboul, however, got his revenge a couple months later when he was able to snatch Ricciardo away from Red Bull.
The two rival bosses were again filmed trading some barbs before a meeting the day after Ricciardo's contract bombshell.
With a cheeky grin on his face, Abiteboul was filmed telling Horner: "You need a driver and an engine".
With a displeased expression on his face, Horner responds: "Yup. Have you got any money to spend on your engine now that you've spent it all on your driver?"
Abiteboul responds by saying: "We have plenty of money".
The 10-part series can be watched in full on Netflix.