Red Bull plans to begin negotiations with Daniel Ricciardo over a new Formula 1 contract early in the new season, according to team boss Christian Horner.
Five-time grand prix winner Ricciardo enters the final year of his contract with Red Bull in 2018, and has been linked with moves away to rivals Mercedes and Ferrari for the following season.
Red Bull has made clear it intends to keep Ricciardo for 2019 and beyond to partner Max Verstappen, who penned a new long-term deal with the team in October.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Horner said that while he did not wish to begin talks too early after a lengthy season, talks would begin early in 2018.
“We’ve just come through a long hard season, so the last thing we’re going to be doing is getting into the depths of contract discussions,” Horner explained.
“But I think early in the new year, once we’ve seen how the car’s performing, how things are panning out, then it’s our priority to make sure that we retain Daniel in the team until at least 2020.
“It’s a different scenario for Daniel. It’s the first time he’s effectively a free agent.
“It’s also a critical time in his career, he’s 28 years of age. This next step is going to be crucial for him.
“We just want to make sure we give him the right car to be able to deliver his potential.”
Ricciardo has taken all five of his F1 wins with Red Bull, having joined the team in 2014 following Mark Webber’s retirement.
The majority of Ricciardo’s racing career has been spent under the energy drink giant’s motorsport umbrella, enjoying backing in Formula Renault 3.5 before stepping up to F1.
With Verstappen, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel all committed to long-term deals and world champion Lewis Hamilton expected to extend his Mercedes deal, Ricciardo appears to be the highest-profile driver on the market for 2019.