Red Bull team chief Christian Horner on Saturday made clear that he is determined to retain Australian Daniel Ricciardo alongside Max Verstappen beyond 2018.
One day after the team confirmed Verstappen, 20, had signed a new three-year deal to run until 2020, Horner stressed that Red Bull had no intention of giving Ricciardo a supporting role.
He also rejected suggestions that Ricciardo would gain from a switch to join Mercedes or Ferrari in a bid to win the world championship.
The Australian said on Friday that he was in no hurry to decide his future — his contract runs to the end of 2018 — but would relish a chance to race with three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Horner, however, said he was confident that Ricciardo will stay with Red Bull providing they can build a competitive race-winning car.
“Time will tell,” said Horner. “Daniel is very happy within the team. If we can provide a competitive car, then I’ve got every confidence that he will be here in the future.
“He would have the same issues with those teams (Ferrari and Mercedes) and I think Red Bull fits well his personality. The way that we operate he sees he has very equal treatment and that he’s not performing a supporting role.
“The way we operate here is that we give both drivers absolute opportunity. Within the other teams, he would be performing very much a supporting role.”
Horner added: “There’s more than 12 months left on Daniel’s contract so we’ve got a little bit of time, but at the right moment we’ll sit down and talk about the future.
“The clear intent is to ensure that we keep Daniel in the car past the end of 2018.
“That’s absolutely our goal — to retain both drivers. For me, it’s the best driver line-up that we’ve had, I think it’s probably the best driver line-up on the grid and we’re obviously very keen to retain that.”
Ricciardo had fuelled rumours of a possible move earlier on Saturday when he said he had always wanted to race with Hamilton or two-time champion Fernando Alonso.
“Alonso’s getting towards the tail of his career so Lewis, at the moment, is more desirable for me to go up against,” he said.
“So I would like that.”