As Max Verstappen’s new F1 deal iced one of the grid’s biggest rumours, Australian star Daniel Ricciardo has emerged as one of the biggest pawns in next years’ anticipated grid shake up.
The 2020 season will be a season of stasis for the F1 grid as the sport awaits massive changes in the 2021 season.
But it doesn’t mean 2020 will be dull, with plenty of major contracts to be sorted before the sport steps in to the unknown.
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Several big names are still up in the air, world champion Lewis Hamilton and Ricciardo appear to be the big potential movers.
F1.com has called the Verstappen signing a statement to Mercedes after the 22-year-old Dutch star announced his new contract on Hamilton’s birthday.
With Hamilton believed to be looking to move to Ferrari, it sets up a fascinating decision.
F1 legend and former team owner Eddie Jordan believes F1 should prepare for a bombshell defection next year with six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff “absolutely certain” to move to Ferrari, he said in December.
Lewis Hamilton’s options appear fairly narrow and is tipped to be the next block to fall.Source:AFP
But F1.com believes differently.
“With Verstappen no longer a possibility and Hamilton’s chances of a move to Ferrari slim, both the Briton and Mercedes are fairly even and it’s now likely to be only a question of when – not if – the duo will agree a deal,” senior writer Lawence Barretto wrote.
While it looks like the big three will have their main men with Charles Leclerc already signing with Ferrari and Verstappen at Red Bull, Ricciardo could make the step up.
Ricciardo admitted in November that being in the midfield has helped him get as much as he can out of his car, which will be important for teams as the 2021 rules are set to reduce the gap between the teams.
While he was a long-time member of Red Bull and had been courted by the big two, now could be the time for the Aussie to make the move to Mercedes or Ferrari.
He had been linked to Ferrari, while F1.com reported he spoke to Mercedes last year before they settled on Valtteri Bottas.
But it appears Ferrari could be a viable option as Ricciardo and Leclerc get along famously with the team looking for a more settled pair after Leclerc and Vettel had several clashes throughout the year, including a collision in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Could Leclerc and Ricciardo both be in red as of 2021.Source:AFP
Speaking to Perth’s The Sunday Times last month, Ricciardo predicted that the grid shake up would be pretty seismic.
“I haven’t committed any more than the end of next year,” Ricciardo said.
“That’s not anything personal, it’s just we haven’t had any discussion about beyond 2020 yet. It’s still early days.
“I would love for 2020 to work out and I stay, that’s the easiest and happiest scenario, I wish for that.
“As far as 2021 goes and that musical chairs, so to speak, I think F1 could get a real shake-up.
“Pretty much every driver is out of contract so from a fan perspective I think that is going to be pretty exciting to see how it all shapes out.”
While Ricciardo has admitted that the big two teams left him frustrated when they had discussions when he put his feelers out before leaving Red Bull for Renault, he has been strongly linked to both teams.
There is also the other issue of which teams will remain in the sport with former F1 driver turned Sky Sports presenter Martin Brundle said Verstappen’s signature kept Red Bull in the sport.
“Red Bull had to be super nervous of keeping Max, that was critical,” Brundle told Sky Sports.
“You had to be concerned that if Max joined Mercedes or Ferrari that Dietrich Mateschitz, the team’s owner, might have looked at the whole thing and thought ‘what’s the point’ if he’s bringing a talent on like that only for him to jump ship.”
Similarly, Mercedes and Renault have questioned their futures, which could throw another spanner in the works.
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