Horner: Daniel didn't want to play support to Max

Renault: We had to sign Daniel Ricciardo

Renault: We had to sign Daniel Ricciardo

It had looked as though Mercedes were set to come to an agreement with Renault over the services of Esteban Ocon for the 2019 season, the Frenchman making the jump from Force India until the highly-rated Red Bull driver became the top priority for the team.

Red Bull Formula One boss Christian Horner has spoken in-depth for the first time about Daniel Ricciardo's shock defection to Renault, revealing that he thought the Australian was joking when he broke the news, and describing the move as "an enormous risk". "Red Bull is also Max Verstappen's team in the sense that all the attention is on him", he added.

Ricciardo was widely expected to sign on at Red Bull for another year but last week it was announced that he will instead join Nico Hulkenberg at Renault after penning a two-year deal, shocking many in the paddock.

Speaking to the F1 "Beyond the Grid" podcast, Horner said his initial reaction was disbelief. "This just gives us an opportunity to take our breath, because they are under contract anyway until the end of the summer or beyond, and we will just look at the options available to us and make sure we make the right decision for the team".

"I've been talking about this for a month, but no one believed me", said the 2007 world champion.

"I think Daniel decided after a long flight to America, he decided he wanted a change". "If you look at the rational reasons for that, it's hard to understand but Daniel obviously had his reasons".

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Horner, Ricciardo and Verstappen.

"They would have equal status, as they have always had". However, he admitted that the signs had been there during their own negotiations with Ricciardo and that the Australian had been reluctant to commit to Red Bull.

"It's been a bit like trying to convince a girl to go out with you, but she's being pretty reticent".

"Daniel's had conversations with Dietrich, with myself, with Helmut and we have bent over backwards to make it happen, but if your heart is not really in it then.it's just felt like that".

"I remember when Mark Webber left in 2013, it was going to be a disaster and we considered Kimi Raikkonen and we considered all the drivers, but eventually it came down to a clear cut decision between Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel got the nod. So I think our preference is to continue to invest in youth than take a driver who is towards the end of his career".

'Personally I felt it was a time now where it is good for me to move on and have a fresh start somewhere else and I think it will be healthy for me, ' he said. "It might be an inspired choice, it might one that he regrets".

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