Ricciardo’s contract is ending in 2018 and that is when the whole driver market will explode. All the top teams are keeping their cards close. This is so as to be able to bag a big name for themselves.
Ferrari has kept Raikkonen for yet another year but that is expected to stop at the end of 2018. Bottas, on the other hand, has only a one year deal handed out to him by Mercedes.
So effectively both the top teams have at least one seat open for 2019. So on paper Ricciardo has two better options to move on to next year. He is highly rated too and no team boss has ever doubted his abilities.
But in the real life, things are not so simple. Ferrari has Vettel as their lead driver till 2020 and that rules out any teammate who’ll upset the German’s authority. Ricciardo’s 2014 performance is still fresh and his presence will be viewed as a threat by Vettel. So effectively the Ferrari seat is off limits for the Australian.
Mercedes-Benz’s both drivers are out of contract at the end of 2018. But Hamilton is interested in furthering his stay in Formula One and should get a new contract. The same cannot be said about Valtteri Bottas when compared to Ricciardo.
And this is where the Australian’s current teammate comes into picture. Right now Verstappen is Formula One’s most sought-after kid. This year’s point tally may not reflect his caliber but Verstappen’s qualifying run against Ricciardo speaks volumes of his talent.
The kid prodigy is a once in a generation kind of talent and comparisons with Ayrton Senna have already been drawn. All of this speaks how strong Verstappen is and justifies teams vying for the Dutch even at a cost of 20 million euro a year figure.
Although as per Red Bull, the Dutch is under contract till 2019, but I’m sure daddy Verstappen knows a way to get his son out of that deal if Ferrari or Mercedes comes knocking.
And if that’s really the case then Mercedes and Ferrari will vie for Verstappen leaving Ricciardo with no pastures to move onto.
So 2018 could turn into a make or break year for Ricciardo in terms of his future. He will have to up his game for next year and hope for a 2014 type of performance against Verstappen to sway the big teams in his favor.
So currently the tables have turned for Ricciardo who finds himself in the shoes of his former teammate but even the opportunities to move elsewhere are also blocked.