Ricciardo ponders next move after Monaco

Daniel Ricciardo lost the biggest grin in Formula One as well as a famous race victory last weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix – and he is so upset by his Red Bull team’s mistakes that he is said to be pondering over his future.

"How do I feel? Like I have been run over by an 18-wheel truck for the second week in a row,” he explained.

To stay with Red Bull, where he is understood to be under contract until the end of 2017? To listen to overtures from other top teams, including Ferrari, in the market for a future champion? Or try something completely different?

"I've had my head held high all season," he said, reflecting on an excellent run of fourth place finishes that suggested he was set to do something special – which he did on Saturday when he delivered his stunning maiden pole.

“But this result, finishing second, really hurts… Part of the frustration is that I really do believe, and I've believed it for a long time, that I should be getting more rewarded.

“I don’t really want to say it, because it’s arrogant, but I believe a lot in my ability. Let’s just say that…

“I'm 27 very soon and I don't even have anything close to a world title -- and I believe I should have something like that very soon.”

For the second consecutive race, the Aussie departed in embittered mood.  “We were quick in the wet, we had a comfortable lead, pitted for inters, got stuck behind Lewis (Hamilton) and we just effectively put ourselves in a race we didn’t need to be in...

“Then I got called into the pits for the slicks and the tyres weren’t ready. I didn’t make the call. I didn’t make the late call. I got to the pits and everyone’s running around like headless chooks.

“I’m massively, massively disappointed. I don’t like being up here being miserable, because I got a podium so it should be a good day, but when it happens two weekends in a row it’s hard to take...”

After an unexpected strategy change in Spain that handed victory to Red Bull team-mate record-breaking Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, Sunday’s bungled pit stop gifted victory to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes.

“Two weeks now, it could have been two wins and it's not,” said Ricciardo. “It's getting a little bit long in the tooth….”

In Spain, he was switched to a three-stop strategy only to find that being first mover was a disadvantage.

In Monaco, he held an 11-seconds lead on Hamilton and there was no need to be first to go on intermediate tyres from full wets.

But Ricciardo was called in and that decision gave Hamilton the track position – something that is more valuable in Monaco than anywhere. The pit stop bungle confirmed the worst.

“It’s not like we’re in Mercedes’ position,” said Ricciardo. “We’re not able to win a race so, for us, to have an opportunity to lead two races in a row and especially here in Monaco….”

As his words trailed away, so with them, it seemed, went much of his faith in his team.

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko apologised on behalf of the team. Team boss Christian Horner blamed the bungle on Monte Carlo’s cramped garages and apologised again.

But the speculation caught fire – with many rumours claiming the Australian will be courted by Ferrari again, as he was last year, and join former team-mate four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel.

He would be wise, however, to stop and think carefully before he moves, according to most observers.

New aerodynamic regulations are on their way for 2017 and may play to Red Bull’s greatest strength – not to mention that the team on Sunday confirmed a new two-year deal with a revived Renault as their engine suppliers.

The arrival and emergence of 18-year-old Verstappen is a factor, too, and will almost certainly accelerate Red Bull’s rate of progress as they mount their bid to de-throne Mercedes.

Ferrari, by contrast, remain winless and beset by political pressures and frustration as they seek a revival of their own.

Most paddock regulars believe Ricciardo will recover his cool and stay with Red Bull. It is widely seen to be the sensible choice. But it remains to be seen if it will help him rediscover his mojo and that dazzling smile. 

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