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Ricciardo will stay at Red Bull in 2019, says Horner

Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal with Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
© XPB 

Red Bull boss Christian Horner is now confident that Daniel Ricciardo will sign a contract extension to stay with the team.

The Australian, who celebrated his 29th birthday at the weekend, has been with the team for five years after early stints with HRT and Toro Rosso.

His current contract expires at the end of this season. After early wins at China and Monaco he was considered one of the key free agents in the driver market.

McLaren had been rumoured to have made a big money bid for Ricciardo's services in case Fernando Alonso decides to quit the sport at the end of 2018.

But after frenzied speculation of talks with Mercedes and Ferrari, it seems that Ricciardo has decided that home is where his current race seat is after all.

“We’ve now got to the point where there is a desire from both sides to continue the relationship,” Reuters reported Horner saying on Tuesday at the Red Bull factory in Milton Keynes.

"It’s just a matter of now really going through the detail and coming to a conclusion, which will certainly be done prior to the summer break."

Horner said that only a major shock was now likely to derail the re-signing, such as Lewis Hamilton deciding to 'do a Rosberg' and retire from F1.

Such an eventuality would leave a big hole at Mercedes which could see them approach Ricciardo as a replacement. Horner confirmed that, so far at least, such an approach hadn't happened.

“I think that had Mercedes put a serious offer on the table, or an offer, he would have been potentially interested,” Horner said.

"He would have had his head turned in the event of a Mercedes or a Ferrari offer, but I think those two teams look pretty set where they are."

Although it's taking much longer than expected, Hamilton still looks certain to sign a new two-year deal with Mercedes, with Valtteri Bottas also set to stay with the team for at least another season.

Sebastian Vettel has already been confirmed at Ferrari, but Kimi Raikkonen is likely to be replaced by Sauber rookie Charles Leclerc. Either way it means there's no room for Ricciardo at the top two teams.

Ricciardo had made it clear that he wanted to sign a contract with a team that gave him the best chance of winning the world championship.

The announcement of the team's decision to drop Renault engines in favour of Honda has been a big factor.

“He’s impatient to try and challenge for a world title," Horner acknowledged. “Obviously, one of the things he was waiting to understand was where we were going with engines as well.

"He’s seen and understood the decision making behind where we’ve gone.

“Hopefully, the rest of it becomes a formality - unless Lewis announces his retirement at the British Grand Prix this weekend!"

At which point it's likely that more than a few reporters surreptitiously checked their smartphones for the latest breaking news notifications, just in case.

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