Red Bull boss Christian Horner has reiterated his desire to retain Daniel Ricciardo as part of its driver line-up but warns the squad has suitable options if the Australian decides to leave at the end of the 2018 Formula 1 season.

Speculation continues to grow around Ricciardo’s F1 future, leading him to shoot down speculation about signing a pre-agreement with Ferrari in the build-up to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as contract talks continue.

Horner is eager to see Ricciardo re-sign for Red Bull, feelings only heightened by his storming victory in China last time out, but accepts the Australian’s current contract hesitations as he searches for an F1 world title-contending package.

While the Red Bull team principal is relaxed about negotiations he has warned the squad is “not short of options” if Ricciardo opts to walk away from the Milton Keynes-based team.

“We’re are not short of options. Our preference is obviously to retain Daniel but a team such as ours is not short of young drivers or alternatives,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.

“He did a great job in China and I think it was the boost that he needed and shows how quickly this sport can turn. Saturday he was on his knees but to see him get that performance was fantastic.

“Daniel has grown up with Red Bull and has been part of the Red Bull group and family for pretty much 10 years now and his confidence in the team is there. The only question he has is over engine performance.”

With only Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel with confirmed deals with Red Bull and Ferrari respectively for the 2019 F1 season, while Fernando Alonso has an option in his current McLaren contract for next year, Horner has looked to other driver negotiations to pull off the intense media speculation on Ricciardo’s future.

“It is something that is going to be dealt with behind closed doors and he knows where we are at and the situation,” he said. “There is obviously Lewis that is also out of contract as is Kimi and Valtteri. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to retain both drivers that we have.”

Ricciardo is considered to be key to any potential changes in the F1 driver market with the Australian rumoured as the potential replacement to either Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes or Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari.

It is thought if Ricciardo does opt to re-sign with Red Bull the Finnish duo are likely to both be retained by their respective teams, while if Ricciardo is to leave his current team Carlos Sainz will be the favourite to step up to Red Bull next to Verstappen. Sainz is currently on a one-year loan at Renault for the 2018 F1 campaign.

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