Daniel Ricciardo is set to leave the Redbull Racing Formula 1 team to join Renault.
The Australian F1 star sensationally announced that he will join the French squad from next year on a two-year deal that will see him race in Renault yellow until the end of the 2020 season.
Ricciardo has been widely expected to re-sign with Red Bull after potential vacancies at Ferrari and Mercedes slipped away.
Reaction from fans on Twitter has been that of utter shock –
— Marc T (@F1Tricky) August 3, 2018
But after five seasons, seven race victories and two pole positions, Ricciardo is moving on.
“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far,” he said in a statement released by Renault.
“But I thought that it was time for me to take on a fresh and new challenge.
“I realise that there is a lot ahead in order to allow Renault to reach their target of competing at the highest level but I have been impressed by their progression in only two years, and I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won.
“I hope to be able to help them in this journey and contribute on and off track.”
Cyril Abiteboul, managing director of the team, added: “Daniel’s signing underscores our determination to accelerate our progress towards the forefront of the sport.
“It is also a recognition of the work accomplished over the past two and a half seasons.
“Daniel’s undoubted talent and charisma are a huge bonus and statement for the team. We will have to repay his faith in us by delivering the best car possible.
“We welcome him to our growing team in 2019 with a great deal of pride, but also humility.”
Ricciardo will partner Nico Hulkenberg next year, with the Red Bull-contracted Carlos Sainz reportedly poised to join McLaren.
The two-year deal puts Ricciardo on the same contract cycle as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, with all three drivers’ current deals coinciding with the expected arrival of new F1 technical regulations in 2021.