• Daniel Ricciardo left Red Bull at the end of 2018.
• The events in Baku played a role in his decision to join Renault.
• Ricciardo and Max Verstappen have since buried the battle axe.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
If you know anything about Formula 1, you'll know that the Red Bull team is solidly built around Max Verstappen. When the youngster joined the team in 2016, he won on his first outing, albeit after the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, took each other out of the race.
Since then, Verstappen made racked up several more victories and, at the tender age of 22, is already one of the big names in the sport. But between May 2016 and the end of the 2018 season, Verstappen was partnered with Daniel Ricciardo. Though the two are very friendly with each other now, it wasn't always the case.
A spate of on-track incidents nearly ruined the team, but the ultimate incident would take place at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo's stricken Red Bull F1 car, Baku 2018 (Peter J. Fox / Getty Images)
The Azerbaijan GP did not just come and go. It will forever be remembered as 1) the race that tipped RedBull's intra-team dynamics over the edge and 2) become the catalyst for Ricciardo to quit the team.
Azerbaijan is a horse of a different colour. On the one hand, it has a long straight that seems to go on for hours. And on the other, it twists and turns with menace. Teams must decide whether to set up their cars for the straight or the turns. It's a fine line that must be treaded. The Red Bull team never really builds cars for top speed, but instead focuses on downforce and strength in corners. As such, its drivers, Ricciardo and Verstappen, qualified in fourth and fifth, respectively.
The race got underway relatively cleanly, and the Red Bull men quickly became each other's on-track rivals. They swapped positions throughout the race, always coming to making contact but keeping out of each other's hair. Until lap 40.
Coming down the long straight, Ricciardo attempted a pass on Verstappen, but the youngster made an (illegal) double defensive move, which led to Ricciardo smashing into him and both retiring from the race. As expected, the Red Bull bosses were not happy at all. And although the fault was Verstappen's, the team refrained from admitting it. Instead, they insinuated the Ricciardo was at fault; which led to the Australian reevaluating his position in the team.
Skip to the 2min40-mark to see the crash and the build-up to it.
Ricciardo's contract at Red Bull was up for renewal in 2018, but the driver opted to count his chickens and instead join Renault. Renault, a team nowhere near the top of the field, ended 2019 in fifth place and 2020 is going to be another challenging year.
But Ricciardo is bound for another move, joining McLaren in 2021. Three teams in four seasons? It's a bit hectic, but the move will surely put him back to winning ways if everything pans out the way it should. Ricciardo knows that a world championship is most likely over for him, but the move to McLaren is the last attempt at claiming it.
Red Bull and Verstappen signed a new deal that'll see the Dutchman with the team until the end of 2023, underlining Ricciardo's believe that Red Bull will protect Verstappen at all cost. Even if it means looking the other way when he's wrong. But for Ricciardo and Verstappen… Well, they've kissed and made up and are of the best pals in the F1 paddock.