Carlos Sainz Jr. acts as a "safety net" for Red Bull should Daniel Ricciardo leave for the 2019 Formula 1 season amid speculation about the Australian's future, says team boss Christian Horner.

Red Bull confirmed over the United States Grand Prix weekend that Ricciardo's teammate, Max Verstappen, had put pen to paper on a new contract tying him to the team up to 2020.

Questions soon emerged about Ricciardo's future with the team, given he is out of contract at the end of next season and seats with both Mercedes and Ferrari will be available, and the five-time grand prix winner driver has said he is keen to take his time over a decision.

Sainz left Red Bull B-team Toro Rosso to join Renault earlier this month in a loan deal running to the end of the 2018 season, and Horner said the Spaniard acts as a back-up option for 2019 should Ricciardo leave.

"[Ricciardo leaving is] a possibility, but that’s why we’ve kept Carlos Sainz on loan, and that’s why we have options around us," Horner said.

"We have a safety net, but our number one objective is to retain the pairing we have."

Were Sainz to move up to Red Bull for 2019 in place of Ricciardo, it would see a return to his partnership with Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso through 2015 and the first four races of 2016 before the Dutchman's promotion.

Horner conceded that Ricciardo's next career move would be an important one, reasoning his desire to take some time, but the team chief is hopeful of a positive resolution.

"The next move that he makes at 28 years of age is a very important one for him, so of course he is going to take the time to make sure the decision is right for him," Horner said.

"He knows the intention very clearly, and I’ve discussed it with him, is that we want him within the team.

"If that takes another six months then so be it."

 

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