Ricciardo stunned the sport and his current bosses by signing up with Renault for 2019 and 2020 when the widespread expectation had been that he would renew his deal with Red Bull.
Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team boss, told F1’s official podcast that Ricciardo was taking an “enormous risk” and suggested the decision was partly influenced by a desire from the Australian to move away from being Verstappen’s team-mate.
“I also feel he sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn’t want to play a support role I guess, for want of better words,” said Horner.
Meanwhile, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has claimed Ricciardo told him and team owner Dietrich Mateschitz during the Hungarian GP weekend that he intended to sign a contract extension.
But appearing in front of the media for the first time since his 2019 plans were confirmed, Ricciardo said some of the theories surrounding his move were wide of the mark.
“It’s not about Max, it’s not about the Honda thing, or Helmut [Marko] or anyone,” he told Sky F1.
“It’s really about moving on.”
Ricciardo added in the Thursday press conference: “There was no bad blood or falling out with anyone with the team, with the bosses or anyone at all.
“There was back and forth over the last few months. In the end the deal we had all come to a happy place with it, in the end it was up to me.”
So why did Ricciardo move?
Ricciardo’s decision means a 10-year relationship with the Red Bull company will end after the season’s final race in November.
The Australian insists that his overriding desire to take on a fresh challenge which swung the balance towards Renault.
“If there’s like 100 variables, really the one that it came down to was me within myself and the way I feel about my desire and motivation within the sport,” he added.
“I feel like I’ve grown with Red Bull, they’ve turned me from a little junior driver into a Formula 1 driver, and I feel it’s now time for me to make those next adult steps and move forward.”
Can Ricciardo win with Renault?
Since returning to F1 team ownership at the start of 2016, Renault have taken their Enstone team on a steady upward trajectory in the Constructors’ Championship.
After finishing ninth with eight points in 2016, they moved up to sixth on 57 points in 2017 and, after the first 12 races of 2018, currently sit fourth on 82 points.
However, the gap to the top three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – remains a large one.
“There are a lot of questions to be answered and questions in front of everyone like ‘you’ve said you want to win straight away and at the moment you’re going to go to a slower car?'” said Ricciardo, who had previously said he wanted to be in a title-contending car for 2019.
“So there are a lot of things I had to digest and look over, but deep down I feel the trajectory they have been on has been strong. Winning next year is still unlikely but I think the process over the course of the next 12-18 months will be quite good and encouraging.
“With Red Bull, one thing which has had me frustrated is the expectation is to win. They are a winning team and I came into the team when they had just won four world titles in a row so naturally there’s always something inside you that you expect to win.
“So in a way it’s kind of easier to be frustrated and I guess in a way ‘if we’re not fighting for a title will I become more frustrated within myself?’ So I felt it was time to make the change for myself and move on, so we’ll see how it goes.
“I know a lot of people are probably like ‘I don’t know’, but I feel comfortable within myself and the decision I’ve made.”
The 29-year-old admitted he experienced “a few sleepless nights” as he weighed up his options before committing to Renault – but now believes he has settled on the right decision for him.
“There is some element of risk associated with every choice I had and it was tough,” he added to Sky F1.
“But if I’m honest with you, when I did make the decision and said ‘this is what I’m going to do’ and I made the calls and did what I needed to do, I felt a weight was off my shoulders and a big degree of stress was released.
“That tells me that it’s for now the right decision and I’m comfortable with that. Not easy to make and not easy to break to for the team, but personally within myself I feel it’s a good thing for me.”
F1 will be back from its summer break with the Belgian GP, live on Sky Sports F1. The race begins at 2.10pm on Sunday, August 26. Get Sky Sports F1 – the home of every race weekend LIVE in 2018.