Daniel Ricciardo is linking his future with Red Bull Racing to the procurement of a competitive engine from 2016.
The Australian, who this time last year was on the way to winning his second grand prix, is suffering a difficult second season with a Red Bull Racing outfit that has taken two steps back in performance this year.
Though the RB11 chassis has its own share of flaws, the crux of the car’s problem is with the 2015 incarnation of the Renault power unit, which has proved both underpowered and unreliable.
Asked if he could imagine racing with another Renault engine next year, Ricciardo did his best to remain diplomatic.
“Not the current one,” he said. “A significantly better Renault I would accept, but as we are now, I don’t think we could go with this performance again next year because other teams will obviously keep improving. We need a significant gain.”
Ricciardo has long-standing ties with Red Bull management after coming up through the energy drink’s junior ranks to race for the senior team, and he says it’s up to them to convince him that the future will be brighter with the once great squad.
“It’s obviously in the hands of the team. I’m keeping my ears open as to what’s happening and what’s being discussed with the team and with Renault about the team’s future.
“I’m putting a lot of my trust at the moment with the team. Why I do that is because I still know that the team wants to return to the success it had.”
With Renault and Red Bull’s relationship having been on the rocks for most of the hybrid V6 era, beginning in 2014, Ricciardo said a final decision on the matter could be due within weeks.
“When I speak to them and they say, ‘Trust me, we’re doing all we can to make sure we’re going to be as competitive as possible for 2016’, and that’s all I need to hear for now. That’s important for me to know.
“From what I understand, in the next two weeks there should be a bit more of a plan in place, and we’ll see what happens after that.”
The question facing Red Bull Racing is what configuration any future engine deal will take given that no works-style deals are presenting themselves, meaning the team will likely have to settle for a customer supply, anathema to team with championship aspirations.
“I guess any situation at the moment isn’t perfect,” Ricciardo considered. “Obviously now we’re down on power. If we were to go with a customer in the next few years, then obviously it’s, ‘Will a customer let you win? Do you actually have an opportunity to win in the next few years?’.
“That’s the big question, but as I said, speaking to the big guys in the team, they’ve given me the confidence that they’ll do what they can to make sure we can fight for success.”