Daniel Ricciardo has been urged to resist the lure of a dream-team pairing alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and instead fight for world championships with Red Bull.
Ricciardo, who is out of contract with the Milton Keynes outfit at the end of the season, delivered an overtaking masterclass to win in China on Sunday and stamp his authority on this season’s title fight.
Valtteri Bottas is on only a one-year deal at Mercedes, and Ricciardo, 28, has made no secret of wanting to team up with Hamilton during his career. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is also on the record as being a huge admirer of the Australian.
Ferrari could also be an option for Ricciardo in 2019 with Kimi Raikkonen’s future beyond this year in doubt.
But Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has not only called on Ricciardo to stay put, but questioned why he would want to leave a team seemingly heading on an upward trajectory.
“Daniel is happy in our environment so if we can provide a car like we did in China then why would he want to be anywhere else?” Horner said.
“We have got a very quick car which we have demonstrated.
“Daniel is a very rounded driver, and he is absolutely at the top of his game and he has been for the last couple of years. He has that balance of experience and is one of the best overtakers in the business. His judgement is impeccable.”
There were contrasting fortunes on the opposing side of the Red Bull garage in Shanghai after Max Verstappen’s aggressive driving prompted further criticism.
Verstappen ran off the road in his pursuit of Hamilton and then collided with championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes’ non-executive chairman, and three-time world champion Niki Lauda, has led the calls for Verstappen, 20, to address his tactics following two high-profile collisions in as many grands prix.
But while the Dutchman, who was given two penalty points on his licence, said he must learn from his recent mistakes, he also admitted he is unlikely to tone down his edge-of-the-seat style.
“Maybe I should not calm down, but oversee the situation a bit more,” Verstappen said.
“I don’t think I necessarily need to be less aggressive – as it has nothing to do with being overly aggressive – but maybe I am just wanting it too much.
“I have been quite good at overtaking before but somehow this year, maybe with the previous two races not going my way, I’ve wanted to recover the points and it’s worked against me. Of course, this is definitely not what I want. It’s a life lesson and I need to learn from what has happened.”