Ahead of the fourth-last race of 2015 last weekend in Austin, an interesting little snippet of news emerged in a media cycle saturated with details of enormously important things like Lewis Hamilton’s latest back tattoos, assorted ramblings between a pair of old F1 stagers with a combined age of 160-odd, and wondering why Haas wouldn’t use an American driver in an American team next year.
Just quietly, Daniel Ricciardo signed with an external management company, Areté doing most of its previous work with English football stars, and diving into motorsport for the first time. Ricciardo has never had the need for a manager; as he said himself earlier this year, “up until this point of my career, Red Bull’s dominated a lot of the moves I’ve made and pretty much picked where I go”. But what if it’s Red Bull that’s doing the going at the end of 2015, actually going through with months of seemingly empty threats of quitting the sport because it doesn’t have a competitive engine and hasn’t won a Grand Prix for (gasp) 23 races?
I’m still of the opinion that the repeated quit threats are little more than petulant posturing wrapped inside a tantrum, but maybe Ricciardo is taking a pre-emptive stance by branching out on his own, considering life outside the Red Bull family he’s been cocooned in since he first had a foothold in Europe. With three races left this year, we still don’t know if Red Bull will be in the sport next season, what engine they’ll be running if they are, and how much later they can leave any decision to carry on or take their bat and ball and go home. If it’s the latter, then Ricciardo is a man every team will want. What better way to flag your possible availability than announce you have a new crew looking after your affairs?
The Areté announcement is surely to make the most of the affable Australian’s marketability – how does he not have a toothpaste sponsor yet? – but at 26, Ricciardo has clearly been giving the future some thought this year. The birth of Ricciardo Kart told us that much; taking greater control of your own destiny simply confirms it. Perhaps I’m adding one and one together and coming up with five. Perhaps it’s a sign that the leg rope to the only F1 team he’s ever known is being ever-so-slightly loosened. The next few weeks will be very, very interesting …
Ricciardo’s future will be dealt with however it breaks on future episodes of ‘The Inside Line’; this week in Episode 124, we review the US GP and talk rather too much about rain, with some justification. Check it out.