Baku, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.
Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and has expressed an interest in changing teams so he can challenge for the Formula One championship. That would likely mean a switch to either Mercedes or Ferrari.
“I’d love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there,” the Australian said Thursday. “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”
Ricciardo, who said he hasn’t spoken with Ferrari or Mercedes yet, said he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.
“There’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull),” he said. “I would expect that environment everywhere.”
Ricciardo’s ties to Red Bull go back a decade and the company supported him through his junior career.
“It’s a long time and they really set it all up for me to let this all happen,” he said. “There’ll always be something and I’d always show love, nonetheless.”
If Ricciardo goes to Mercedes, that would almost certainly mean a departure for Valtteri Bottas, who won three races in his debut season with Mercedes last year.
“I just need to live with it, it’s normal,” Bottas said when asked about the potential for Ricciardo to make a switch. “I’m 100 percent happy to just focus on myself performing well.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, said it will be “quite an easy thing” to extend his Mercedes contract, which also runs out this year.
“I have every plan to be with the team for the future,” Hamilton said.
As one of the most sought-after drivers in F1, Ricciardo is in no rush.
“I don’t really fear not having a seat next year so I don’t feel that I have to sign something tomorrow or have nothing,” Ricciardo said. “If it’s only Red Bull (interested), then that’s where I’m at.”