Daniel Ricciardo has underlined his desire to find a Formula 1 world title-contending car as part of his next contract in the sport as he assesses his options after 2018 when his current deal with Red Bull ends.
The Australian driver has remained tightly inside the Red Bull fold since graduating to Formula 1 in 2011 but with his current deal expiring at the end of next season he has the option to leave the team, with potential suitors Mercedes and Ferrari linked as options for the 28-year-old.
Ricciardo accepts his next F1 deal will be key to his career as he moves from his junior years to potentially his prime and is eager to find a team which can give him the tools to fight for the world title.
As a result, the Australian is keen to assess his options during 2018 before making a decision on his F1 future and says finding a team which can battle for world championships is a priority over any other condition having endured a frustrating few years off the pace of the dominant Mercedes.
“Next year is a big one for me. They’re all big, but there’s a bit going on other than just the driving,” Ricciardo wrote on his Red Bull blog. “I know what I want, and the performance side is more important than ticking the money box, if you like.
“Having the chance to be able to fight for something really meaningful – races, championships – that’s the absolute priority.
“There’s absolutely no rush, and things can take as long as they take – I’m not setting a deadline for anyone else’s sake, or just to get it done for me. I’m not just going to settle on something because I want it to be off my mind, because there’s a lot at stake. It’s a big decision for me, so if I need to take time to make it, I will.”
Ricciardo has looked to Lewis Hamilton’s key switch to Mercedes in 2013 as an example of moving at the right time – despite the German manufacturer being off the front-running pace in his maiden year – and is aiming for a similar situation.
“You look at Lewis and when he did his Mercedes deal, he was the same age as I am now. He was already doing very well where he was but his career has really taken off since then.
“I’m planning on being in the sport for a long while yet but if I was to sign a three-year deal that’s a big chunk of the next part of my career. I need to get it right, so it’s a big call – the most important one for me yet.” Earlier this year Red Bull secured a contract extension with Max Verstappen to see the Dutch driver remain at the team until at least the end of the 2020 season.