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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Daniel Ricciardo leaving Red Bull for 'change of scenery' but Max Verstappen is not convinced 

Australian has opted to join Renault at the end of the year and opened up on his decision ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo, right, sits alongside Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly - the man set to replace him at Red Bull next season. Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo, right, sits alongside Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly - the man set to replace him at Red Bull next season. Getty Images

Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo has said his decision to leave Red Bull Racing for Renault was motivated by needing a change of scenery - but Max Verstappen is not convinced by his teammate's apparent motives.

Ricciardo, 29, has won two races with Red Bull so far this season - in China and Monaco - but will join a team further down the pecking order that last won a race a decade ago, even if it is moving back up.

Red Bull is switching from Renault to Honda engines in 2019, and Ricciardo's decision has been seen by some as a sign that he was not convinced by what the Japanese manufacturer could offer.

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Read more:

Lewis Hamilton v Sebastian Vettel: who will be crowned F1 champion?

Belgian Grand Prix: Hamilton and Vettel title fight resumes as F1 returns after summer break

Graham Caygill: Daniel Ricciardo has nothing to lose by leaving Red Bull for Renault

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Ricciardo denied he had felt "unloved" at Red Bull, although Verstappen is held up as a champion-in-waiting at the team, and said there were no hard feelings.

"To be clear, there was no falling out, no bad blood with anyone in the team, the bosses or anyone," he told a news conference ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix on Thursday, adding that it had not been an easy decision to make.

"I felt I was ready for a change, a new challenge and just for me personally some fresh motivations. A few sleepless nights for sure trying to come up with the best conclusion for myself."

Ricciardo said he had still been unsure during the Hungarian race weekend at the end of July but made up his mind during the following days.

"Once I pulled the trigger I felt comfortable with it. It feels right," he added.

Ricciardo agreed Honda still needed to prove itself, but said Renault also contained an element of risk and the key factor had been him "wanting to have a change of scenery" after 10 years in the Red Bull family.

"If it is a change of scenery, I'm not sure if it's the best scenery to go to," 20-year-old Dutchman Verstappen told reporters.

Verstappen, who has one win this year - in Austria - suggested the Australian should have waited.

"Of course everybody has moments in their career where you're frustrated or you're not happy with the current situation," he said.

"I think everybody here wants to win races or wants to win championships but sometimes it's not like that and you have to really be patient and work hard for it."

Verstappen and Ricciardo, who will be replaced by Frenchman Pierre Gasly, got along well as teammates and the Australian indicated he would miss that.

"If he starts calling Pierre the best team mate he ever had my heart will be broken," he said, grinning.

Meanwhile, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso left the door open for a possible return to F1 when he explained he was saying goodbye, but could not forecast the future.

The Spaniard, who it is claimed turned down an offer from Red Bull before announcing his F1 exit, said: "I don't have a crystal ball to know the future. For me, it's a bye-bye, but who knows in the future."

He told a news conference that "it was a decision that probably I started thinking about last year.

"And then this year, 2018, there were a lot of changes into the team and with the engine manufacturer changes and things like that.

"I thought it was worth staying one more year. I enjoy driving these cars with new regulations, big tyres, more down-force and this year was some kind of joy to keep racing and to have another go.

"A couple of months ago, I decided it was the right time. I feel strong, feel a good level and want to say bye-bye to this sport when I am strong, not when I am not competitive or have no place to go.

"I prefer to take my own decision and take new challenges that Formula One cannot offer me at the moment."