By Alan Baldwin
MONACO (Reuters) – Daniel Ricciardo’s stock has never been higher but Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton reckons the Monaco Grand Prix-winning Australian is unlikely to be anywhere other than Red Bull next season.
That said, the Briton, who is currently engaged in his own contract negotiations with Mercedes, expects him to earn much more in future.
The Australian is out of contract with Red Bull at the end of the year and champions Mercedes or Ferrari are possible alternatives with Finns Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen yet to be confirmed.
“I would imagine his future is there (Red Bull),” said Hamilton after Sunday’s race.
“He is one of the top drivers so I am sure there will be options for him. There’s only Ferrari and Mercedes that he could ever consider, but currently here (Mercedes) that’s unlikely. I don’t think that’s going to happen.
“I imagine Kimi’s going to want to continue (at Ferrari). Why not? He’s driving really well this year and he doesn’t seem to be ageing so I’m sure he’ll go for a little bit longer.”
Ricciardo won from pole on Sunday with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel second and championship leader Hamilton third.
Red Bull, who have Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstapppen on a long-term deal, also want the 28-year-old to stay.
“You could say the day’s maybe made Daniel more expensive, it’s put his value up,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner told reporters.
“Or you could say it’s put the team in a stronger position in terms of its value and potential to him.”
Horner hoped Ricciardo, who has now won two races this year and is third in the overall standings, could be signed up “in the next couple of months” but recognised much would depend on what engine Red Bull had.
The former champions use Renault units but have been linked to Honda, now with Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso, for 2019.
While Ricciardo would be popular among Ferrari fans, as a driver of Italian extraction with a reputation for thrilling overtakes, the Italian team have Sauber’s 20-year-old Charles Leclerc as a future prospect.
Hamilton said Red Bull looked the best bet for Ricciardo but “it’s important in a team that you are valued at what you are worth”.
“At the moment, he (Ricciardo) is pretty much the lead driver in that team, so it’s not a bad place to be,” he added.
“But he should definitely have a contract on his table and his options ready.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin,; Editing by Alison Williams and Ed Osmond)