Australian racing driver Daniel Ricciardo will quit Red Bull Racing at the end of the current Formula 1 season to join Renault, where he'll race alongside the team's current driver Nico Hülkenberg in the 2019 season.
It means Ricciardo will replace Renault's other current driver Carlos Sainz, who is rumored to replace Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren next season. Sainz only joined Renault this season and has managed to accumulate 30 points so far in the Drivers' Championship.
Ricciardo has signed on for the next two seasons with Renault. He is already very familiar with the Renault family, having driven in Renault junior series between 2007 and 2011 and has been powered by Renault engines in F1 since 2014. The 29-year-old has raced in F1 since 2011 and has amassed 29 podium finishes including seven wins.
Renault's power unit isn't at the same level of Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG units, though it has improved substantially in the past two seasons and further improvements should be made before new power unit rules are introduced in the 2021 season. It's something Ricciardo acknowledged upon joining Renault.
“I realize that there is a lot ahead in order to allow Renault to reach their target of competing at the highest level but I have been impressed by their progression in only two years, and I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won,” he said in a statement. “I hope to be able to help them in this journey and contribute on and off track.”
The news means there is now an empty seat at Red Bull, which is currently third in the Constructors' Championship. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said in a statement that the team will now evaluate “numerous options” on the table before deciding on who will partner with current driver Max Verstappen in the 2019 season, when Red Bull switches to Honda power units.
In other F1 news, Vienna General Hospital in Austria said in a statement Friday that racing legend Niki Lauda had successfully undergone a lung transplant. The 69-year-old, a three-time world champion, currently serves as a non-executive chairman at Mercedes-AMG.