Ricciardo joined Red Bull in 2014 and took seven victories for the team during five seasons before stunning the sport by making a shock switch to Renault. After taking just two podium finishes with Renault during a two-year stint at Enstone, Ricciardo was again on the move, this time to McLaren. 

The Australian’s bombshell move to quit Red Bull left many questioning his decision, including Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who suggested the decision was partly influenced by Ricciardo wanting to move away from being Verstappen’s teammate. 

Speaking exclusively to Crash.net as part of a wider interview ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, the scene of Verstappen’s sensational first F1 victory on his Red Bull debut in 2016, Ricciardo conceded the momentum shift that followed Verstappen’s Barcelona win did ultimately play a role in him leaving. 

“Honestly, if I broke down everything, there was probably 30 factors or 30 reasons,” Ricciardo explained. 

“For example, I knew that Simon [Rennie], my engineer, was moving on. So that was one reason, because I had such a good relationship with him. So there was a lot. 

“Obviously, I knew the hype behind Max and it’s funny, we’re here in Barcelona and this is where the real hype train started. His first weekend [with Red Bull] and he won. 

“That propelled him to another level and it also made me pretty upset because I was leading that race and had a three-stop strategy over his two-stop, and it cost me. So there was already things that were tilted. 

"I’m not saying it was planned at that time but just through the cause of events, it could have been very different that weekend and it shifted. 

“Then his momentum was building in the team and for sure, there was then a little bit of that concern. That wasn’t the leading factor, or the biggest, but it was one of the core 30.” 

'No regrets’ about leaving Red Bull after F1 2018 season

Ricciardo, who was Verstappen’s most competitive teammate at Red Bull, insists he has no regret over his departure despite winning only once in the three years that have followed, and seeing Verstappen become F1 world champion last season. 

Asked if there is any sense of regret about his decision to leave given Red Bull’s current competitiveness, Ricciardo replied: “I’ve thought about it, of course. 

“I knew I was going to get the questions as well over the course of time, whether it was the immediate announcement at the time in 2018, or now that Max has won a world title. 

“I think it’s easy to be like ‘if I was at Red Bull then I would be winning races’ and probably could have thought for a world title last year, you’d say. Or this year, for example. 

“But it’s not that simple because if I was still there, I would gone through different engineers, there would have been change. It’s not just like a linear line of, ok the car’s better now, I’m going to do better. 

“There’s probably the question of ‘what if I leave? What if I go with another team? That would have got heavier and heavier, so maybe my driving wouldn’t have been as good if I stayed. 

“It’s not kind of black and white either. I don’t look back at that with any regret. Again, on paper, people will say ‘well you’ve only got a couple of podiums and one win since you left, so yeah that failed’. It’s not that easy. 

“Max is a star in the sport but he’s also a Red Bull star. So there’s always that… It’s just… you don’t know how it’s going to go. But there was definitely no guarantees that I’d be kicking arse with them.”